Anti-government protests continue in Venezuela, intensifying after the government of President Nicolas Maduro announced April 7th that Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles, a prominent opposition leader, democratically-elected governor, and former presidential candidate, has been barred from participating in the country’s public life for 15 years.
Acting U.S. State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement that the United States views the move to ban Mr. Capriles from holding public office “with grave concern.”
Demonstrations in Venezuela broke out following a March 31st Supreme Court decision that the Court would take over the powers of the opposition-led National Assembly. Demonstrators are protesting against the terrible economic conditions in the country, as well as the erosion of democratic governance.
Over the past several days, violent clashes have broken out between demonstrators and police. Several people have been killed; hundreds more have been injured. The Venezuelan NGO Foro Penal (Criminal Justice Forum) reported that as of April 13, 460 persons had been arrested for protesting between April 4 and 13; 212 of those remained detained as of April 13.
Acting State Department Spokesperson Toner said the United States “echoe[s] the Venezuelan people’s calls for prompt elections, respect for the constitution and the National Assembly, and freedom for political prisoners.”
He urged demonstrators “to express themselves non-violently” and called on government security forces “to protect peaceful protest, not prevent it. The freedom of assembly,” he added, “is a universal human right which the Venezuelan authorities must respect.”
“We firmly support the consensus of the Organization of American States Permanent Council, which affirms it is essential that the Government of Venezuela ensure the full restoration of democratic order,” said Spokesperson Toner.
“We urge President Maduro to reconsider the decision to bar Capriles and ensure Venezuelans can exercise their right to elect their representatives in free and fair elections in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution and consistent with international instruments, including the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”