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The Latest: Venezuela calls OAS forum for ‘coercion’

Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro march to the Ramo Verde military prison in Los Teques, outskirts of Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, April 28, 2017. Venezuela's opposition called for a march to the prison where opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is serving a nearly 14-year sentence for his role leading anti-government demonstrations in 2014. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis. (all times local):

7:50 p.m.

Samuel Moncada, Venezuela’s deputy minister of foreign affairs for North America, said his country is pulling out of the Organization of American States because the group has become a forum for “coercion” instead of cooperation.

Amid protests in Caracas aimed at forcing President Nicolas Maduro from office, Venezuela gave notice Friday of its plans to withdraw from the Washington-based OAS. The notice begins a two-year exit process.

At a news conference at the Venezuelan consulate in New York, Moncada said the OAS has “degraded into an instrument of oppression” conducting a “campaign to destroy democracy in Venezuela.”

He accused the United States of pressuring other, smaller countries not to stand with Venezuela in the organization.

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7:40 p.m.

Venezuela has formally notified the Organization of American States of its intention to leave the regional body whose leader has been one of the fiercest critics of embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

Interim Ambassador Carmen Velasquez submitted a letter on Friday declaring the move to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro in Washington.

The decision comes after a contentious meeting at the group’s headquarters in which its permanent council voted in favor of holding a special session to evaluate Venezuela’s crisis, adding to mounting international pressure for Maduro to schedule delayed elections and free detained political activists.

Tension have been steadily rising between Venezuela and a group of OAS members that includes the United States since Almagro issued a 75-page report in March accusing Maduro’s government of systematically violating human rights and standards of democracy.

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