CARACAS, May 19 — Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles said yesterday that authorities confiscated his passport and prevented him from traveling to New York to discuss his country’s deadly political crisis with United Nations officials.
“I have not been able to travel. I will not be able to attend the meeting with the (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Capriles said in a video posted online.
“I am outside the migration zone without my passport” at Maiquetia airport near Caracas, he said. “They robbed my passport, for that is how I would describe it, in the migration zone.”
Capriles, the 44-year-old leader of the center-right Justice First party, is the most prominent opponent of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
The opposition has accused the government of violently repressing protests by Venezuelans demanding early elections to remove Maduro from power.
Capriles had intended to brief the high commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on deadly violence that has left 43 people dead.
Zeid reacted on the Unhcr Twitter account.
“I was hoping to see @hcapriles @UN and to hearing his views on #Venezuela. I regret he was unable to travel,” Zeid said.
“Hope @hcapriles passport removal is not reprisal linked to planned meeting with me tomorrow.”
More ruckus in Caracas
Fresh clashes erupted later in eastern Caracas as Maduro’s opponents staged their latest protest marches against him.
Security forces blocked thousands of demonstrators from advancing along a major highway towards the interior and justice ministries.
Military police with armored trucks fired tear gas and water cannon to drive the demonstrators back, AFP reporters saw.
Masked youths responded by hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails, in scenes now familiar after weeks of unrest.
The protests erupted across the country on April 1 in anger at Maduro’s handling of an economic and political crisis.
Protesters blame Maduro for shortages of food and medicine. They are demanding early elections and accuse him of trying to cling to power.
Elected in 2013, Maduro has accused the opposition of plotting a coup against him with US backing.
The government and the opposition have accused each other of sending armed groups to sow violence in the protests.
The United States convened a meeting of the UN Security Council on Venezuela on Wednesday. It warned the crisis was worsening and could escalate into a civil conflict like that of Syria.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez responded on Twitter by repeating Maduro’s allegation that the United States was out to topple his government.
The president has branded the opposition “terrorists” and accused them of mounting an “armed insurgency.”
Maduro’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said Wednesday the government was sending troops to the western region of Tachira to quell violence there.
In Caracas yesterday, protester Carlos Herrera banged out a march on a drum to urge on fellow demonstrators.
“The government has declared war on us,” he said.
“I have to encourage our troops.” — AFP