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ACS concerned over violence in Venezuela
Government is supporting an initiative by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states (CELAC) for dialogue aimed at halting violence in neighbouring Venezuela, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran said yesterday. In a telephone interview, Dookeran said: “We are in touch with our Caracas embassy which has been giving a full appraisal of the situation as well as the conditions that are difficult in economic terms, reflected in the issue of foreign exchange, rising prices and affecting transportation links between T&T and Venezuela even for diplomats and other officials. “It’s generated a sense of uneasiness among the Venezuelan population and even at the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) meeting held two days ago in Port-of-Spain.” He added: “Government is monitoring developments closely. We will support CELAC initiatives to bring about dialogue among the relevant parties towards an appropriate de-escalation of the violence.
A CELAC meeting scheduled for Caracas today was being brought forward to last night, Venezuelan sources said yesterday. Regional ambassador Mervyn Assam, agreeing CELAC may have a role to play, said Venezuelan stability was important for T&T and the region. He said it appeared the Maduro administration was experiencing problems even after the death of former leader Hugo Chavez. Meanwhile, T&T’s ambassador to Venezuela. Anthony Edgehill, commenting on the growing unrest, said the flow of information about it was being closely “managed” by the Venezuelan authorities. Edgehill, who is based in Caracas, spoke to the T&T Guardian yesterday following a week of protests in Caracas and other cities. It involved clashes among university students and rival groups of Opposition and Government sympathisers as well as law enforcement agencies of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro administration. Protests so far have left three dead—two youths and a member of a civilian militia group—hundreds injured and scores detained, he added. But no T&T nationals have been injured, Edgehill said.
He added there were thousands of T&T nationals in Venezuela and six T&T nationals at the embassy. He assured that the embassy had an evacuation plan in event of any extreme developments. The unrest began a week ago when students protested on National Youth Day and Government supporters responded with a march for life and peace. It has involved violence, including the fire-bombing of a legal official’s division—and looting which each side has accused the other of instigating. Maduro has made it clear he will not tolerate the blocking of roads or any violence. Edgehill said Opposition leader Henry Capriles was somewhat distanced from the situation and was calling for peace and disarming of militia groups. Violence was described as more localised in eastern Caracas and other areas, though not widespread. Edgehill said another protest march was expected today, though the Venezuelan authorities said that march was illegal. Simultaneously today, another march by workers of the state-owned Pedevsa oil company, which supports the Maduro government, has been scheduled. Edgehill said the situation has exacerbated already existing shortage of staples, airline flights — including flights to T&T — and utility services.