Reuters International

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina is studying whether to back moves at the Organization of American States and the Mercosur trade group to censure Venezuela and block it from leadership positions in response to allegations the socialist government is behaving undemocratically, the Argentine government said Friday.

OAS head Luis Almagro, who has accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of sidelining his country's opposition-led congress and stuffing the supreme court with loyalists, has requested an emergency meeting to discuss a possible censure of the country.

If OAS members agree that Venezuela is violating basic democratic principles laid out in the group's charter, it could pave the way for a vote that may suspend it from the regional diplomatic body.

Meanwhile, a senior Brazilian official said on Thursday Brazil may help block Venezuela from taking the rotating presidency of Mercosur in a bid to prevent Maduro from strengthening his power.

Argentina has not changed its position on Maduro's government, Argentine cabinet head Marcos Pena told reporters, after activists accused Argentina of withdrawing its support for the Venezuelan opposition, and does not rule out supporting a censure.

"For both the charters in Mercosur and the OAS, we absolutely have not ruled it out," Pena said. "We think at this time the best regional contribution is to promote a path of dialogue."

Argentina's new centre-right president Mauricio Macri had supported invoking the democratic charter before Venezuela's December legislative elections, where the opposition won a two-thirds majority and took control of the National Assembly, Pena said.

"There has not been any change in Argentina's policy on this topic."

Application of the charter carries risk, Pena added.

"The democratic charter isn't a solution to any problem. The Venezuelan government could also use whichever of these mechanisms as a way of shielding itself against external interference," he said.

Argentina's foreign minister has also called for dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition, saying solutions to the country's polarization could not be imported.

A week after taking office in December, Macri called for Mercosur members to support the release of Venezuelan political prisoners.

(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Maximiliano Rizzi and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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