President Maduro Scolds John Kerry: Rebuke 'Threatens Venezuela with More Violence'
Secretary of State John Kerry had some stern words for the socialist leadership of Venezuela yesterday, warning that the violent repression of the opposition was "unacceptable." President Nicolás Maduro took to Twitter this weekend to denounce "insolent" "threats of violence" from the "brutal empire" of the United States.
Maduro, who has somehow found plenty of time to be active on Twitter despite his country descending into something dangerously close to civil war, was responding to an official declaration from the Secretary of State. Kerry said in a statement that he was "watching with increasing concern" the ongoing violent repression of protesters in Venezuela, and that Maduro's actions--paramount among them the arrest of opposition party leader Leopoldo López. “The government’s use of force and judicial intimidation against citizens and political figures, who are exercising a legitimate right to protest, is unacceptable," said Kerry in a statement, "and will only increase the likelihood of violence.”
In a flurry of angry tweets, Maduro responded that it was Kerry, not Maduro, who was inviting violence:
The tweets say, in order: (1) "I just read the recent declarations by John Kerry [sic] arrogant, interventionalist and insolent that confirm the terms of the threat I denounced." (2) "John Kerry threatens Venezuela with more violence, with his declarations he gives the green light to violent groups to attack our people." (3) "Let the brutal and insolent Empire know that we will continue to defeat them with the strength of our people, which is the strength of [Venezuelan liberator Simón] Bolívar and Chávez."
Tensions in Venezuela have been simmering since the latter half of last year, when opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski lost a close election in which European observers confirmed that there was electoral fraud. Among Maduro's first moves as elected president was to use the power of ally and Venezuelan legislature president Diosdado Cabello to pass a law that would allow him to override the legislature and govern by decree.
His tenure had been marked by a shortage of food and necessary household items like toilet paper before the turn of last week, when Maduro arrested Leopoldo López and triggered worldwide protests against his regime. Capriles Radonski alleged this weekend that there were at least 500 cases of violent attacks on student protesters by state police. Most recently, he expelled CNN from the country for airing "war propaganda" (footage of state police attacking unarmed protesters) and has taken down the internet in many urban areas to prevent the dissemination of violent footage through social media.