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US denies organizing protests in Venezuela amidst rising violence

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WASHINGTON – The US on Monday denied accusations that is was organizing protests amidst violent outbreaks that have taken the lives of citizens.

According to the US State Department, “the allegations that the United States is helping to organize protestors in Venezuela is baseless and false. We support human rights and fundamental freedoms – including freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly – in Venezuela as we do in countries around the world. But as we have long said, Venezuela’s political future is for the Venezuelan people to decide. We urge their government to engage all parties in meaningful dialogue.”

The US denies that Venezuela had expelled American diplomats there, saying that it had “not received any formal notification.”  However, Reuters reported that three US diplomats were expelled because they had “used visa visits to universities as cover for promoting student-lead protests.”

Meanwhile, the US expressed concern about the political climate in the South American nation that had led to violence in recent days:

The United States is deeply concerned by rising tensions and violence surrounding this week’s protests in Venezuela. Our condolences go to the families of those killed as a result of this tragic violence.

We are particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors and issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. These actions have a chilling effect on citizens’ rights to express their grievances peacefully.

We join the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and others in condemning this senseless violence. We call on the Venezuelan government to provide the political space necessary for meaningful dialogue with the Venezuelan people and to release detained protestors. We urge all parties to work to restore calm and refrain from violence.

Freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are universal human rights. They are essential to a functioning democracy, and the Venezuelan government has an obligation to protect these fundamental freedoms and the safety of its citizens.

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