US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday urged Russia to end its support for Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.
Maduro has “brought nothing but misery to the Venezuelan people. We hope that Russia’s support for Maduro will end,” Pompeo said at a press conference alongside Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in the Russian city of Sochi.
“We want every country that’s interfering in Venezuela to cease doing that. We want Venezuela to get their democracy back,” Pompeo said in televised comments. “We need free and fair elections there, not interfered in by any other country.”
Lavrov responded by saying that “threats by the US administration” against the Venezuelan leadership have “nothing to do with democracy.”
US intervention for “democracy” in Iraq and Libya in the 2000s has “brought nothing good,” Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International yesterday said it believes the Venezuelan authorities have committed crimes against humanity in their crackdown on anti-government protests, and urged the International Criminal Court to investigate.
The rights group said President Nicolas Maduro’s government responded with “a systematic and widespread policy of repression” in late January, when anti-government protests swept the country after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself acting president.
Maduro opponents were tortured and killed during the protests, it said.
“The nature of the attacks...the level of co-ordination by the security forces, as well as the signs of similar patterns in 2014 and 2017, leads Amnesty International to believe that the Venezuelan authorities committed crimes against humanity,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Maduro, the political heir to late leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez, has presided over a spiralling political and economic crisis in Venezuela since taking office in 2013.
He was re-elected to a second term in May 2018, in a vote boycotted by the opposition and rejected by much of the international community.
Guaido, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature, declared himself acting president on January 23. He has since been recognised by more than 50 countries, led by the US.
Amnesty sent a fact-finding mission to the country in February to research the ensuing crackdown.
The London-based rights group said at least 47 people were killed during the protests from January 21 to 25. At least 33 were shot dead by the security forces, and six by government supporters.
Eleven of the deaths were extrajudicial executions, it said.
“State forces identified people who had been prominent in the protests in their communities, located them and shortly afterwards killed them....Some of them were tortured before they were killed,” it said in its report.
More than 900 people, including children, were arbitrarily detained over the same period, it said, calling on the UN Human Rights Council and International Criminal Court to investigate.
Its team found that crimes and human rights violations were committed in “an attack planned and led by the security forces against individuals identified as or perceived to be opponents, particularly in impoverished areas.”
Maduro himself “knew about these public and appalling acts and took no measures to either prevent or investigate them,” it said.
Earlier a second airplane from China carrying medical supplies including medicine arrived in Venezuela as part of a “humanitarian technical” co-operation agreement between President Nicolas Maduro’s government and the Asian powerhouse.
A Boeing 747 carrying 71 tonnes of medicines and surgical material arrived in the capital Caracas, the government said in a press statement.
It included supplies for pregnant women and drugs to treat respiratory conditions.
“With this second shipment, as well as that which we already received from the Russian Federation, the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent” some 166 tonnes of medicines and supplies have arrived in the country, Health Minister Carlos Alvarado said.
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