CARACAS - A group of Latin American countries and Canada has called on Venezuela's military to back opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido.

He has accused the armed forces, controlled by President Nicolas Maduro, of planning to divert international humanitarian aid earmarked for the crisis-torn country.

The Lima Group, a multilateral body with 14 members, has expressed its "support for a process of peaceful transition through political and diplomatic means without the use of force".

The countries also urged the military "not to impede the entry and transit of humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans".

Members released a joint statement after a meeting in Ottawa, Canada, where protesters briefly disrupted a closing press conference.

Mr Guaido, who addressed the meeting in a video message, said he looked forward to having "free and fair elections as soon as possible in order to restore democracy to Venezuela".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and European Union deputy diplomatic chief Helga Schmid also participated in the talks by video conference.

The Lima Group welcomed Mr Guaido's "legitimate government of Venezeula" and vowed to "recognise and work with" his representatives in their respective countries.

The body's 17-point declaration states that the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Peru support Mr Guaido as interim president.

Violent protests have broken out across Venezuela between supporters of President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Three members - Guyana, Mexico and St Lucia - did not back the declaration.

Canada's foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said 34 countries have so far recognised Mr Guaido as Venezuela's interim leader until new elections are held.

She called on the entire international community to join them, and to also freeze the assets of Mr Maduro's "dictatorial regime".(FA)