Rights groups say Venezuela should end its violent attacks

The government of Venezuela should immediately end its violent attacks against demonstrators, invite the opposition to join an open dialogue to end the country’s political crisis, and seek help from the international community in defusing the tensions, Freedom House said Thursday.

Meanwhile, in Caracas, student protesters and security forces faced off again.

Freedom House, the Latin America and Caribbean Network for Democracy, and the World Movement for Democracy co-signed a letter sent to the secretary general of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza, requesting the organization’s  “good offices” mission to Venezuela.

Former Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias has expressed willingness to lead such a delegation.

“Given the violence this week involving the National Guard and police, the government has crossed the line of behavior acceptable in a democracy, and the international community should speak up,” said Robert Herman, vice president for regional programs for Freedom House. “Conditions in Venezuela are reminders of the darkest periods of Latin American dictatorships. It is no longer possible to justify the government’s human rights violations on the grounds that it was elected democratically.”

Wednesday the national guard and police indiscriminately fired tear gas canisters in at least four major cities, in some cases aiming directly at protesters or inside residential buildings and homes in search of student protesters. Government-supportedcolectivos or paramilitary groups accompanied government forces, and fired live ammunition.  Though the government has sought to impose a media blackout, online videos show several civilian casualties lying on the streets.

There have been at least five deaths.

Freedom House said it also calls on the government to immediately release opposition leader Leopoldo López, who was arrested this week. A court convened on a military base has extended his detention for another 45 days, in violation of due process.

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