European-led group seeks to help end Venezuelan crisis

A mostly European group of nations said Tuesday it will send a high-level delegation to Venezuela to propose solutions to that country's protracted crisis.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in Costa Rica that the delegation will travel in the coming days. The International Contact Group, consisting of eight European countries, the European Union and four Latin American countries, concluded its meeting in San Jose on Tuesday.

The group formed after Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress declared himself early this year interim president in a direct challenge to Nicolás Maduro's rule.

It reiterated its goal of a peaceful resolution through the holding of free and fair elections as soon as possible. It also expressed concern for Venezuela's humanitarian situation and called for unrestricted access for aid.

Bolivia did not sign the group's declaration, but participated in discussions.

The group called on the Venezuelan government to respect the right to peaceful protest and to dissolve armed civilian groups. The declaration tried to give Guaidó some cover as well.

"The National Assembly, democratically elected and presided over by Juan Guaidó, must continue being the center of the country's political life," the declaration said. "Its constitutional rights must be respected in line with national legislation, the parliamentary immunity of its members must be guaranteed."

On Tuesday, Venezuela's top court opened a criminal investigation against six opposition lawmakers following the failed attempt last week to trigger a military uprising.