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Venezuela: Americas must create own rights group

Associated Press Modified: May 3, 2012 at 8:16 pm •  Published: May 3, 2012
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CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) — Venezuela's top diplomat said Thursday that Latin American nations should create a regional human rights commission that excludes the United States as a means of preventing Washington from meddling in their domestic affairs.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the commission should be created by regional groups such as the ALBA bloc created by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the UNASUR grouping of South American nations and CELAC, an organization comprising 33 countries including Cuba.

"We are hoping that through UNASUR, through CELAC, we can quickly ... create organizations linked to the issue of human rights," Maduro said.

Maduro mentioned the proposal during a meeting of South American diplomats, defense ministers and security officials in Colombia's coastal city of Cartagena. It was not formally discussed during the meeting.

Chavez said Monday that his government should pull out of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, saying U.S. officials hold sway over it. The president accused the U.S. government of using the commission to attack his socialist-oriented government.

Venezuelan officials are analyzing the proposal to leave the Washington-based commission, Chavez said.

Chavez's remarks drew criticism from Venezuelan human rights activists, the president's political opponents and the U.S. government.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been strongly critical of the human rights situation in Venezuela during recent years.

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Associated Press writer Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas contributed to this report.