I am watching with increasing concern the situation in Venezuela. Despite calls from that country's democratic opposition and the international community, the Venezuelan government has confronted peaceful protestors with force and in some cases with armed vigilantes claiming to support the government. It has imprisoned students and a key opposition figure. It has limited the freedoms of expression and assembly necessary for legitimate political debate, and just today tightened restrictions on the media, revoking the credentials of CNN en Español reporters. This is not how democracies behave.
Every government has a duty to maintain public order, and all sides, including the opposition protestors, must refrain from violence. The government's use of force and judicial intimidation against citizens and political figures, who are exercising a legitimate right to protest, is unacceptable and will only increase the likelihood of violence.
I call on the Venezuelan government to step back from its efforts to stifle dissent through force and respect basic human rights. The government should release incarcerated members of the opposition and initiate a process of genuine dialogue with the democratic opposition. The solution to Venezuela's problems can only be found through dialogue with all Venezuelans, engaging in a free exchange of opinions in a climate of mutual respect.