Mercosur trade bloc suspends Venezuela on democracy concerns

Venezuelan citizens living in Brazil protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, outside Sao Paulo's City Hall as the Foreign Ministers of Mercosur meet in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. The South American trade bloc has decided to suspend Venezuela for failing to follow democratic norms. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Argentina's Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie speaks to the media during a Foreign Ministers of Mercosur meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. The South American trade bloc has decided to suspend Venezuela for failing to follow democratic norms. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Venezuelan citizens living in Brazil protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, outside Sao Paulo's City Hall as the Foreign Ministers of Mercosur meet in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. The South American trade bloc has decided to suspend Venezuela for failing to follow democratic norms. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Foreign Ministers of Mercosur, from left, Argentina's Jorge Faurie, Paraguay's Eladio Loizaga, Brazil's Aloysio Nunes, Sao Paulo Mayor's Joao Doria, and Uruguay's Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, stand before giving a statement to the media, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. The South American trade bloc has decided to suspend Venezuela for failing to follow democratic norms. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Brazil's Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes speaks to the media during a Mercosur meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. The South American trade bloc has decided to suspend Venezuela for failing to follow democratic norms. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Foreign Ministers of Mercosur, from left, Argentina's Jorge Faurie, Paraguay's Eladio Loizaga, Brazil's Aloysio Nunes, Sao Paulo Mayor's Joao Doria, and Uruguay's Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, give a statement to the media, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. The South American trade bloc has decided to suspend Venezuela for failing to follow democratic norms. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Foreign Ministers of Mercosur, from left, Argentina's Jorge Faurie, Paraguay's Eladio Loizaga, Brazil's Aloysio Nunes, Sao Paulo Mayor's Joao Doria, and Uruguay's Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, stand before giving a statement to the media, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. The South American trade bloc has decided to suspend Venezuela for failing to follow democratic norms. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

SAO PAULO — The South American trade bloc Mercosur has suspended Venezuela for failing to follow democratic norms amid a deepening political crisis in the country.

Venezuela was previously suspended in December for failing to uphold commitments it made when it joined the group in 2012.

The new suspension will make it harder to return to good standing since it can be lifted only when the bloc is satisfied that Venezuela has restored democratic order.

The decision came at a meeting of Mercosur foreign ministers in Sao Paulo on Saturday, as Venezuela's newly formed constitutional assembly ousted the country's chief prosecutor who broke with President Nicolas Maduro in April.

The assembly will have sweeping powers, and opposition leaders fear it will be used to strengthen Maduro's power and crack down further on dissent.

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