Merida, 20th February 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has again called for dialogue, as part of a national peace plan.
Maduro urged for more talks with student groups, stating he is open to “constructive dialogue to define key issues” during an address to the country last night.
“I'm making a new proposal. Come here, let's talk...we want peace,” the president stated.
Earlier this week the government issued a call for student groups to meet with Vice President Jorge Arreaza in the capital, Caracas. The talks were intended to be part of a “plan of living together and peace”.
“We have to be builders of peace,” he stated.
Maduro also called for a meeting of state governors next Monday. A previous call went largely unnoticed by the opposition. Yesterday the president urged opposition governors including Miranda's Henrique Capriles to “not continue shunning their work, to talk about what is needed in the states, to talk about peace”.
Today Capriles accused the government of “using force to silence” protests.“The repression is so brutal that yesterday armed forces personnel were going into buildings... into parking lots...this is not solved by way of repression,” he stated.
Addressing his supporters, last night Maduro also urged for strength in the face of ongoing violent demonstrations across the country.
“Decent people of this country...we have to keep fighting to defeat these fascist gangs, who were trained for two or three years,” he stated.
Maduro also condemned repeated attacks against state broadcaster VTV's headquarters in Caracas. According to the president, VTV has been attacked by demonstrators a number of times over the last week.
“Where is the Inter American Press Association [IAPA], the National College of Journalists? Or, do they agree with this continuous attack?” he asked.
Last week the IAPA issued a statement criticising the government for pulling Colombian cable channel NTN24 from Venezuela's airwaves. The head of Venezuela's telecommunications regulator, CONATEL's William Castillo accused the 24 hour news channel of engaging in “efforts to actively support destabilisation”.
NTN24 has denied the allegation.
Violent protests are continuing today, with opposition groups continuing to block roads and protest in certain areas of the country.
An officer of the Carabobo state police has been hospitalised amid ongoing demonstrations, while in Barquisimeto, five vehicles belonging to the state-owned telecommunications company CANTV were torched.
Public transport is on strike and unavailable in Merida city, with main roads continuing to be blocked by opposition barricades. Despite that, this afternoon pro-government grassroots organisations met in the city centre, and agreed to develop a plan to counter opposition violence. Around 350 people from various collectives attended the meeting.
“Because we're not in the street these violent people can do what they want. The streets belong to the people,” one attendee stated.
Following the meeting the collectives marched through the city centre, chanting “the streets belong to the people, not the oligarchy”.
Government Responds to Obama
Maduro's government also came under renewed criticism from the United States. President Barack Obama called on Venezuela to release opposition demonstrators arrested amid recent violent clashes.
“Along with the Organisation of American States, we call on the Venezuelan government to release protesters it has detained and engage in real dialogue,” Obama told the press in Mexico yesterday.
Obama also described allegations that US officials colluded with opposition groups as “false”. Three US consular officials were ordered to leave Venezuela earlier this week, after Maduro accused them of holding private meetings on university campuses.
Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua has hit back at Obama's comments. “We will not accept anyone who comes to give us advice on how to deal with violent...groups that threaten stability and peace in Venezuela,” Jaua stated.
Today the foreign ministry released a statement accusing the US of “gross interference” in Venezuelan affairs.
“The Venezuelan government reiterates that it will continue monitoring and taking actions
necessary to prevent US agents seeking violence and implementing destabilisation, and to inform the world about the nature of the interventionist policy,” the foreign ministry stated.
Homicide and Terrorism Charges Against Lopez Dropped
Earlier today a lawyer for the leader of the far right Voluntad Popular party Leopoldo Lopez, stated that two of the most serious charges faced by the hardliner have been dropped.
Speaking to Union Radio, Lopez's attorney Juan Carlos Gutierrez stated that although the “terrorism and homicide” charges were dropped during a hearing yesterday, Lopez remains in custody. According to an El Universal report last week, Lopez could face other charges including conspiracy, incitement to crime, setting fire to a public building, damaging public property, public intimidation and inflicting serious injuries.
However, Gutierrez warned against speculation, arguing that no trial has begun.