WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has asked the Venezuelan government to free all political prisoners and abandon the “old script” of blaming the United States for non-existent coup attempts.
“We are perplexed and concerned about what is happening in Venezuela,” said Kerry during a hearing Tuesday of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“We call on the government of Venezuela to release the political prisoners, including dozens of students, besides (opposition leader) Leopoldo Lopez (and the mayors) Daniel Ceballos and Vicencio Scarano,” said Kerry.
Kerry did not mention last week’s arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, but alluded to the latest arrest in reference to a question from Senator Robert Menendez.
Kerry denounced the apparent guidelines followed by the Venezuelan government of blaming Washington every time President Nicolas Maduro or any other high official is in trouble.
“I’ve talked about Venezuela in all my conversations with leaders of the hemisphere,” he added.
Maduro said this month that a coup plot has been thwarted which, according to him, was planned by Washington along with Venezuelan opposition leaders and the military.
The alleged plot for which an unspecified number of military personnel, including seven air force officers, have been arrested, marks the latest of more than a dozen such coup plots announced by Maduro since he took office nearly two years ago.
Bilateral relations are at their lowest ebb with neither country having an ambassador in the other, along with a host of U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan officials, the latest imposed at the beginning of this month.