BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday February 24, 2014, CMC – An Inter-American group has called on the authorities in Venezuela to “urgently seek mechanisms and solutions” to prevent a downward spiral of conflict in the country.
The Friends of the Inter-American Democratic Charter said it also condemned the arbitrary arrests of political leaders and is demanding the immediate release of “all those who remain detained under the terms of which the right to personal liberty is guaranteed by the Venezuelan Constitution, the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international obligations of the Venezuelan state.”
Pro- and anti-government supporters took to the streets over the weekend after a week of protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government, which have been fuelled by high inflation and a lack of basic goods such as milk and bread.
Venezuela’s jailed protest leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was arrested on Tuesday, urged supporters in a letter posted on social media on Friday to continue protesting peacefully.
In the handwritten note he said, “I’m fine, I ask you not to give up, I won’t.”
But the government has accused Lopez of inciting violence as part of an orchestrated right-wing plot.
Last week, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) expressed concern about the confrontations taking place in Venezuela and in a statement deploring the deaths of at least four people, the regional grouping called for respect of the democratically elected Government.
“In all democracies, citizens have the right to air their views and differences, however, this must be done within the constitutional framework and not through violent demonstrations. No democratic society can reasonably pursue disorder or any unwarranted subversion of democratic institutions,” CARICOM said.
The Friends of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which include former Canadian prime minister Joe Clarke, the former president of Ecuador, Osvaldo Hurtado, the former president of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana and the former Caribbean diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders, said it was condemning the repression of peaceful demonstrations and the arbitrary detention of Venezuelan students.
It said it was also demanding “a thorough, transparent, and independent inquiry into the violence, as well as the allegations of abuse of detained students” and called on Caracas “to respect and guarantee the necessary conditions for the exercise of political activities by political and social opposition, as guaranteed by the Inter-American Democratic Charter”.
On Friday, the government revoked the accreditation of two CNN journalists, criticising the US-based television network’s coverage of the unrest which has left eight dead and 137 people injured.