WASHINGTON — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called on the government of Venezuela to listen to protesters, many of them students, who have been demonstrating for weeks over economic stagnation, high crime rates and harsh political harrassment.
Ban said the government of President Nicolas Maduro should listen to the demands of the protesters
"I urge the Venezuelan authorities to listen to the legitimate aspirations of the protesters," said Ban at the 25th session of the Human Rights Council.
Ban said the Venezuelan government must ensure that the rights to freedom of speech and expression are respected, but he called on the protesters to demonstrate peacefully.
Ban met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Juau in Geneva who told the Human Rights Council that his country was the victim of an international campaign of "lies and falsehoods."
"The people of Venezuela has been subjected to continuous harassment to seek State besiege as a violator of human rights and try to tear us away from our tradition and commitment to peace ," he said in a speech to the council.
The U.S. Congress is scheduled to vote on a resolution in support of Venezuelans protesting for democratic change. Resolution 488 will be introduced Tuesday for a vote before the full House of Representatives. It was sponsored by Congresswoman Elena Ros-Lehtinen of Miami who says she will introduce a sanctions bill targeted at the Maduro government.
Meanwhile students continued their protests Monday in Caracas by marching to the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS). Last week an emergency OAS meeting to address the crisis in Venezuela was postponed.
The protests that began three weeks ago, have left at least 18 dead, over 260 injured and hundreds arrested .
This report was prepared by VOA Latin America Division