Venezuela fumes at Mercosur ultimatum as Latin America shifts right

September 14, 2016 11:33 AM EDT

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela on Wednesday decried a decision that could see it suspended from the Mercosur trade bloc as the crisis-stricken leftist country grows increasingly isolated in South America.

Socialist-led Venezuela has been at the center of a fight over the rotating presidency of Mercosur and has lost its weight in the once staunchly leftist bloc.

The founding members of Mercosur will give Venezuela until Dec. 1 to meet its membership requirements or be suspended from the bloc, said the Foreign Ministry of Brazil, which like several other countries in the region has recently shifted to the right.

"Trying to destroy MERCOSUR via illegal ruses is a reflection of intolerant politics and the desperation of bureaucrats," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said on Twitter.

All Mercosur members but Uruguay blocked Venezuela from assuming the rotating presidency in June, accusing the OPEC nation of failing to incorporate a joint economic accord and a commitment to protect human rights.

Brazil's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the ultimatum for Venezuela was meant to "preserve and strengthen Mercosur."

The bickering over leadership has stalled Mercosur's everyday operations and trade negotiations with other countries, ultimately forcing Uruguay to accept a tougher stance against Venezuela, a Brazilian official familiar with the matter said.

(Reporting by Caracas newsroom; Editing by Bill Trott)



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