World Bulletin / News Desk
Venezuela’s opposition leader Henrique Capriles said that the removal or stepping down of President Nicolás Maduro is not the answer to the country's current problems.
He claimed however that the country's recent wave of deadly street protests is a product of the government turning its back against the people.
In an email to Brazil's Globo News, Capriles – who is Miranda’s state governor and former presidential candidate – said the protests were legitimate given the country's current crisis situation, but wouldn't be solved by the president stepping down:
“Problems continue in the same vein and others have worsened. We have one of the highest inflation rates in the world [and] the highest level of shortages in our history,” Capriles said, adding that given that 80 percent of consumer products were imported, there was no incentive for domestic production.
The two-week-old anti-government protests, which have spread from the capital Caracas to a number of cities across the country, have seen at least 13 deaths, and scores of injuries and arrests.
Protesters, most of which are students, are calling on the government to tackle high levels of crime and violence, as well as guarantee freedom of speech and the availability of some staple products.
Capriles said that 2013 had seen over 25,000 murders and that 2014 had already seen around 8,000 violent deaths. The country, he said, was in a war against violence that it was losing.
President Maduro has called the protests a “coup d'état in progress”, which he has blamed variably on the country's splintered opposition, particularly arrested Popular Will opposition party leader Leopoldo López, the United States and the CIA, and former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe.
López has called for protesters to keep coming out onto the streets, whereas Capriles has tried to strike a less radical tone, stressing change had to come from peaceful steps that were “within the constitution”.
Anti-government protesters have alleged serious abuse at the hands of the government's security forces, accusations including indiscriminate beatings, sexual assaults and killings.
They also say the government has cracked down on social media sites and protesters' communication tools, including Twitter, to hinder the wave of anti-government protests.
Capriles said that the government had failed to tackle the country's many problems, but that they would not be solved simply by the president leaving his post.
“It's about demanding that the government correct the policies that it implemented and establish the steps needed to get [the country] out of the crisis they put us in. It's time for the government to face up to the problem.”
Capriles called on the government to take a serious stand against corruption and stop “giving our oil away while there's one Venezuelan in need”.
Neighboring countries – including leading regional power, Brazil, have appeared reluctant to condemn the government's crackdown in Venezuela, with only softly-worded warnings from regional economic bloc, Mercosur, of which Venezuela is a member.
The leader of the Roman Catholic church, Pope Francis, said he was concerned about the country's violent unrest, saying at the end of his weekly general audience that he hoped the “violence and hostility would cease as soon as possible”. The Argentine pope is both popular and influential in the region.Last Mod: 27 Şubat 2014, 10:13