UN, pope, NGOs urge calm amid Venezuelan presidential crisis

UN, pope, NGOs urge calm amid Venezuelan presidential crisis

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Juan Guaidó and Nicolás Maduro both claim to be Venezuela's rightful president. TMN graphic.
Juan Guaidó, left, and Nicolás Maduro both claim to be Venezuela's rightful president. (TMN graphic)

Venezuela's Observatory of Violence says at least 26 people have been killed at the hands of security forces since anti-government protests began Wednesday.

UNITED NATIONS – U.N. chief Antonio Guterres appealed for calm in Venezuela on Thursday, a day after Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself interim president of the country, setting up what many fear could be a violent contest for power with Nicolás Maduro.

“At this critical time, he urges all actors to lower tensions and pursue every effort to prevent violence and avoid any escalation,” Guterres’ spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General underlines the urgent need for all relevant actors to commit to inclusive and credible political dialogue to address the protracted crisis in the country, with full respect for the rule of law and human rights.”

Vatican spokesperson Alessandro Gisotti relayed a similar message, saying Pope Francis backed “all efforts that help save the population from further suffering,” but sidestepping any mention of whether the pontiff recognizes Guaidó or Maduro as president.

Media reports citing Venezuelan Observatory of Violence suggest as many as 26 protesters have been killed by security forces since anti-government demonstrations began on Wednesday.

Amnesty International responded to reports of killings of protesters by calling on Maduro and those loyal to him to “stop the repression of the people, and above all guarantee the life and physical integrity of those who demonstrate against them.”

The U.S., Canada, Brazil and a handful of other governments across the Americas recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader on Wednesday, hours after the 35-year-old parliamentarian announced to thousands of cheering supporters that Maduro had illegally usurped power and that he would take over the country until new elections could be held.

Guaidó said Thursday that he had requested humanitarian aid from the U.S. to help address shortages of food and medicine, a request Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. intends to honor.

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