United Nations decries excessive force in Venezuela's crackdown on protests

United Nations decries excessive force in Venezuela's crackdown on protests

The UN decried Tuesday "widespread and systematic use of excessive force" against demonstrators in Venezuela, saying security forces and pro-government groups were responsible for at least 73 protester deaths.

President Nicolas Maduro invited allied nations including Cuba and Bolivia to Caracas, where their representatives echoed his assertion that Venezuela is the target of a plot by the "imperialist" United States.

On Tuesday, Venezuela's Supreme Court ordered the arrest and 15-month imprisonment of opposition mayor Ramon Muchacho.

In a statement after the ruling, Muchacho said he had been convicted for guaranteeing the right to peaceful protest and for "fighting for change in Venezuela".

The foreign ministers also backed Mercosur's decision to suspend Venezuela, announcing that it wouldn't support any candidacy from Caracas at worldwide forums, asking for arm shipments to be cut to the Caribbean country, lamenting the "humanitarian crisis" and expressing its support for the dismissed Attorney General Luisa Ortega. But the United Nations said that some anti-government demonstrators had also resorted to violence and that eight members of the security forces had been killed during demonstrations.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres "is concerned that recent developments could lead to further escalation of tensions", his spokesman said in a statement.

Venezuela is already struggling under a dire economic crisis in which much of the population of 30 million is suffering shortages of food and medicine.




Filled with Maduro supporters, it is expected to eventually take the place of the opposition-led National Assembly in a move that critics fear will erode democracy, and is expected to rewrite the Constitution at Maduro's behest. He stressed the "anti-imperialist" and "revolutionary" character of the armed forces.

The Venezuelan army on Tuesday blocked opposition lawmakers from entering the Legislative Palace as that country's political crisis intensifies.

Opposition parties face a rapidly approaching deadline to decide whether they will take part in regional elections scheduled for December.

After the failure of the Organization of American States (OAS) to reach agreement on the Venezuelan crisis, the vast majority of countries in the region that denounce the Venezuelan situation have opted for other diplomatic channels, such as the suspension of Venezuela from Mercosur and now the formation of an independent pact.

The Bolivarian Alliance said in a statement read after the meeting, "We reiterate the call for a constructive and respectful dialogue".

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told representatives from nations including Cuba and Bolivia that long-standing US aggressions against the South American nation have "entered a much stronger phase".

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