Wednesday, August 17, 2022

US seeks joint effort to ensure Venezuela head ends violence

By on May 17, 2017

Opposition members march to protest against the government of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

UNITED NATIONS — U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the United States called for Wednesday’s first-ever Security Council consultations on Venezuela to seek joint efforts to ensure that President Nicolas Maduro ends violence and restores democracy.

She said in a statement ahead of the closed-door meeting that “peaceful protesters have been injured, arrested and even killed by their own government” and the country is “on the verge of humanitarian crisis.” She pointed to medicine being unavailable, hospitals lacking supplies and people having difficulty finding food.

“For the sake of the Venezuelan people, and the security of the region,” Haley said, “we must work together to ensure Maduro ends this violence and oppression and restores democracy to the people.”

Nearly two months of political unrest were set off by the attempt by Maduro’s socialist government to nullify the opposition-controlled congress in late March. But demonstrations have escalated into a vehicle for airing grievances against the government for triple-digit inflation, food shortages and a rise in crime.

The opposition blames the bloodshed on state security forces using excessive force and on groups of armed, pro-government civilians known as “colectivos.” Maduro says far-right extremists are working with criminal gangs to foment the violence.

International pressure on the troubled South American nation has been increasing, with the Organization of American States voting Monday to hold a rare foreign ministers’ meeting later this month to discuss the crisis.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said it is “absolutely right” that the OAS and the 33-nation Community of Latin American and Caribbean States are taking the lead, “but it is also right that the Security Council, charged as we are on the maintenance of security and peace … keep a very close eye on the situation.”

He warned that if things go wrong Venezuela could “descend into conflict” and threaten international peace and security, “and so we need to act, in whatever way we can, starting with our discussion today.”

Rycroft said the United Kingdom is very concerned about the humanitarian impact of the current crisis, “the growing risks of flows of migration out of Venezuela and … the possibility of regional instability.”

He called Wednesday’s briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca a first step in raising awareness in the council, which has been talking a lot about conflict prevention — an issue Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also been advocating.

Sweden’s U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog said the Security Council “should be on top of issues that relate to preventive diplomacy.” He said members are aware of efforts in the region and initiatives including by the Vatican to try to resolve the crisis.

“I just hope that whatever the council does it will help those efforts that are there to resolve this in a peaceful way,” Skoog said.

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