CARACAS: Venezuela defied international pressure over its deadly political crisis Thursday as European lawmakers accused its government of "brutal repression" and US President Donald Trump called the country "a mess."
Nearly a month of clashes at anti-government protests have left 28 people dead, according to prosecutors.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday intensified his row with foreign powers that he accuses of plotting to overthrow him.
His government announced it was launching the two-year process to pull out of the Organization of American States, a key regional diplomatic grouping whose secretary general Luis Almagro has branded Maduro a dictator.
"I am proud to say I took the decision... to free our country from interventionism," Maduro said in a speech on Thursday.
"We are free of the OAS and we will never return," he added. "To hell with the OAS! To hell with Luis Almagro!"
- OAS branded 'traitors' -
The move was a defiant show of force in a mounting crisis for Maduro, whose center-right opponents blame him for the country's economic collapse.
They want elections to remove Maduro, whose current terms runs through the end of next year.
The United States played down the announcement.
It "has no real practical or immediate effect because withdrawing from the OAS requires up to two years," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
"In the meantime Venezuela will remain a full member of the OAS, and required to fulfill all of its obligations as a member state. And that begins obviously with respect for democratic norms and processes."
- Trump 'sad' for Venezuela -
US President Donald Trump meanwhile spoke out on the mounting crisis in Venezuela.
"Venezuela is a mess," he said in response to a reporter's question as he received Argentine President Mauricio Macri at the White House.
"I'm very sad for Venezuela," Trump said. "Venezuela is a very sad situation."
In Brussels, the European Parliament said in a resolution it "strongly condemns the brutal repression exercised by the Venezuelan security forces, as well as irregul