The government crackdown on opposition figures continues in Venezuela with the arrest of one of the nation’s top elected officials, the mayor of the Caracas Metropolitan District.
Antonio Ledezma was taken into custody February 19, accused of taking part in an alleged plot to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro. Less than a week later, the government of Venezuela announced that leading opposition legislator Julio Borges would be investigated for conspiring against President Maduro. Government leaders said they would work to strip Borges of legislative immunity to be able to imprison him.
These actions follow a pattern of political detentions amid the country’s ongoing economic problems. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, opposition Mayor Daniel Ceballos, and dozens of student protestors have been in jail for more than a year, facing what human rights groups and the United Nations have determined are baseless charges.
Since entering office in 2013, President Maduro has claimed to have foiled seven coup attempts, many of which he alleges were backed by U.S. officials. Such allegations are baseless and false.
Consistent with the principles enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the United States reaffirms the region’s commitment that changes in governments must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful and in accordance with the rule of law.
The United States is not promoting unrest in Venezuela. Nor are we attempting to undermine its economy or government. We remain Venezuela’s largest trading partner. Venezuela’s economic and political problems are the result of the policies of the Venezuelan government. Its government should stop attempting to distract attention from the country’s economic and political problems, and focus on finding real solutions through democratic dialogue among Venezuelans.The government should also consider the statements by dozens of individuals and entities, including the other governments in the region, the UN Secretary General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN Committee Against Torture, Amnesty International, the OAS, and European Parliament, calling for due process and the release of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and others.
We regret that the Venezuelan government continues to blame the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. Despite the difficulties in our official relationship, the United States remains committed to maintaining our strong and lasting ties with the people of Venezuela.