Kerry asks Venezuela to respect rights, ease shortages
SANTO DOMINGO (AP):
United States Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday called for Venezuela to respect freedom of expression, release political prisoners, and alleviate shortages of food and medicine as the South American country plunges deeper into economic crisis and political turmoil.
At a general assembly session of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Dominican Republic, Kerry also urged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government to "honour its own constitutional mechanisms, including a fair and timely recall referendum that is part of that constitutional process". Maduro's opponents have launched a complex effort to recall him.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
"Like all people of the Americas, Venezuelans have the right to use constitutional mechanisms to express their will in a peaceful and a democratic manner," Kerry said.
Kerry's comments at the opening session of the OAS meeting received a blistering response from Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, who portrayed the top US diplomat as a bully. The two envoys are to meet one-on-one.
"I feel the ruler of the world has spoken, and who on top of it all has the audacity to voice his opinion on other countries," she said after Kerry's statement.
Maduro has blamed his socialist government's deepening problems on an "economic war" mounted by critics in league with Washington.
Yesterday, Rodriguez accused OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro of encouraging an interventionist stance in Venezuela to oust Maduro from office. She alleged that Almagro was "on the payroll of Washington".