US denounces Venezuela for repression, demands free elections

The United States denounced the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday for suppressing protests and called for free elections, saying that he must not be allowed to follow a “dictatorship” path like Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

 “This is an economic, political and humanitarian crisis that demands the world's attention,” Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, told a U.S.-hosted panel of Venezuelan activists and experts held on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. “The Venezuelan government is in the midst of destroying human rights and democracy in Venezuela. It is conducting a campaign of violence and intimidation against unarmed demonstrators, businesses, civil society and freely elected political opposition,” she said. 

Haley, speaking later at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, said states must prevent human rights crises from becoming armed conflicts. “It's the reason why I am so concerned about Venezuela. Because in Venezuela, (one is) hard-pressed to see that Maduro is not following in the same steps as Assad. We have to make sure we stop it before it gets to that point,” she said. “It's supposed to be democracy, it's turning into a dictatorship and that's a problem,” she added. 

 “The Venezuela regime is fooling no one. Recognizing that its grip on power has slipped, it is yet again trying to change the rules of the game,” Haley said. “There are many things that could be done to help the people of Venezuela. But they really only need one thing: a free election.”