Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has expelled three United States consular officials from the country due to suspected conspiracy with the right-wing opposition, Venezuela Analysis said on February 17.
It came after days of violent protests and riots by right-wing students that attacked government buildings and left at least three people dead. On February 18, a large demonstration of workers from the state oil company PdVSA and other Chavistas marched in Caracas support of the government and revolution, and to reject the right-wing violence. It came after tens of thousands of people marched on February 15 in Caracas support of the government.
During a national broadcast on February 16, Maduro said the officials had organised meetings in private Venezuelan universities “with the story of offering visas”. The consular officials were given 48 hours to leave Venezuela.
On February 15, US Secretary of State John Kerry criticised the Venezuelan government for arrests made during on-going opposition protests and violence, saying the actions “have a chilling effect on citizen’s rights to express their grievances peacefully”.
Maduro also said the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Alex Lee, had called Venezuela’s ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, with a list of “demands” of how the Venezuelan government should proceed.
The Venezuelan government responded by saying it was “one more maneuver of the Washington government to promote and legitimise the attempts to destabilise Venezuelan democracy that violent groups have unleashed in recent days”.
Maduro said: “In case anyone is in doubt, in Venezuela a plan is underway to create a political crisis and justify a state coup."
He said for the US, human rights means “the right of the right-wing to overthrow legitimate governments”.
In 2002, the US backed a military coup that briefly ousted Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez, before a mass uprising of the poor and loyal soldiers restored the elected president.
Investigations by lawyer and journalist Eva Golinger revealed the United States has provided funding and advice to the opposition to Chavez and Maduro's governments, which have promotoed pro-poor and anti-capitalist measures.
Citing US government documents, Golinger tweeted on February 16: “[The] U.S. budget for 2014 includes US $5 million for opposition groups in Venezuela (plus what they give in private).”
Video: Academic and author of We Created Chavez George Ciccariello-Maher on Al Jazeera America, February 15 discussing the situation - George Ciccariello Maher.
On February 18, PdVSA workers led other workers and poor supporters of the Bolivarian revolution to demand "Yes to peace!" One participant, Jose Espinoza, told Correo Del Orinoco: "I came because I wanted to support the peace plan of the Bolivarian Revolution.
"We are tired of the opposition, by their personal ambitions -- because there is no other explanation for the madness of their violence."
The 73-year-old Espinoza said of the governments of Chavez and Maduro: "Since I can remember, there has not been a government in Venezuela that wants more the people, especially the poor."
PdVSA workers presented Maduro with a new collective contract, which will benifit more than 40,000 workers in the company.
Photos below are from Venezuelan News Agency.