Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Venezuela opposition leader says blocked from USA trip

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles said Thursday authorities confiscated his passport and prevented him from travelling to NY to discuss his country's deadly political crisis with United Nations officials.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday called the situation in Venezuela a "disgrace to humanity" and said the deadly political crisis was possibly the worst of its kind in decades.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has likened the harassment of government officials and their families outside of Venezuela to the treatment of Jews under the Nazis. "The global community needs to say "respect the human rights of your people" or this is going to go in the direction we've seen so many others go".

Critics of Maduro say it is an excuse for him to consolidate power and muzzle the opposition.

The protests typically end with state security forces launching tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, some of whom fire back with rocks and gasoline bombs.

The State Prosecutor's Office said three National Guard sergeants would be charged later on Thursday for their "presumed responsibility" in Castellanos' killing.

Venezuela presents a "very, very awful problem" for the entire hemisphere, and the ongoing unrest there that's left dozens dead and hundreds injured was "nothing like what we've seen for a long time", Trump said, adding that the USA stood with those "yearning to be free".

"We're starting to see serious instability in Venezuela", US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters after the closed-door Security Council meeting, which was requested by the US.

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U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said he hoped the passport revocation was not a "reprisal" linked to his scheduled meeting with Capriles on Friday.

A 15-year-old boy died in hospital, a day after he was shot during the spate of looting in San Cristobal. Venezuela's opposition party controls a majority of the Assembly but has been slowly weakened by Maduro since they won elections in 2015.

Those blacklisted by the Treasury Department include Maikel Moreno, the president of the pro-government Supreme Court, as well as all seven justices who signed a ruling in late March stripping the opposition-controlled congress of its last remaining powers.

"It is a very, very disgusting problem".

The opposition blames the bloodshed on state security forces using excessive force and on groups of armed, pro-government civilians known as "colectivos".

Venezuela's United Nations ambassador Rafael Ramirez accused the USA of encouraging violent elements within Venezuela seeking to topple the Maduro government.

The United States warned at the United Nations that Venezuela's crisis was worsening and could escalate into a civil conflict like that of Syria.

"The United States has shed light on the plan it is leading to intervene in Venezuela", she said.

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