The Trump administration is monitoring Venezuelan instability, and believes there is a strong need to bring weeks of anti-government protests in the country’s capital Caracas to a quick and peaceful conclusion.
H.R. McMaster, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, met on Friday with Julio Borges, the president of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, about the civil unrest which has been near-daily for five weeks, the White House said on Saturday.
They discussed “the need for the government to adhere to the Venezuelan Constitution, release political prisoners, respect the National Assembly, and hold free and democratic elections,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement to Reuters.
“Some of the acts there have been deplorable and [it’s] certainly something that we’re monitoring very closely,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Friday, according to Reuters.
According to the Associated Press, clashes between police and protesters have left 38 dead in the past month.
Local news media on Friday carried a video circulating on Twitter of a statue of the late President Hugo Chavez being pulled down. The media reported that students destroyed the statue as they vented their anger with the food shortages, inflation and spiraling crime that have come to define life in the South American nation.
The protest movement has drawn masses of people into the street nearly every day since March, and shows no sign of slowing.
According to Reuters, embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday announced the creation of a new popular assembly which demonstrators decried as a power grab aimed at sidelining the National Assembly. Borges responded by calling on Venezuelans to rebel.
“We are deeply concerned about the Maduro government’s violent crackdown on protestors in Venezuela. President Maduro’s disregard for the fundamental rights of his own people has heightened the political and economic crisis in the country,” said Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in a statement.
“The Maduro regime must respect Venezuela’s constitution and the voice of its people. We are particularly concerned that the government is failing to provide basic food and medical needs to the Venezuelan people,” Haley said.