The European Union is pressing Venezuela’s government and opposition groups to resume negotiations toward peacefully resolving the political crisis that has convulsed the country for nearly two months.
In a statement issued Monday, the EU repeated concerns it had expressed last July seeking "an urgent, constructive and effective dialogue."
The EU’s current statement calls for "all Venezuelan political actors and institutions to work in a constructive manner" and to "avoid violent acts." Since early April, at least 38 people have died and many more have been injured in clashes between opponents and backers of President Nicolas Maduro’s government. The EU statement called for investigating "all incidents of violence."
Dissatisfied Venezuelans have taken to the streets to demand that the socialist Maduro schedule long-delayed elections, release political prisoners and permit the delivery of humanitarian aid. Their demonstrations, and those of Maduro's backers, have escalated since the government-friendly Venezuelan Supreme Court's late-March attempt to strip the National Assembly of its legislative powers and since Maduro's May 1 call for a new constitution.
The EU has a direct stake in the conflict, its statement noted, "with more than 600,000 European citizens" living in Venezuela. The EU said it "reiterates its readiness to cooperate with the Venezuelan authorities" to ensure their safety.
On Monday, responding to a call for a nationwide sit-in, activists again barricaded streets and highways with lawn chairs, tree limbs and garbage.
"I’m here for the full 12 hours" of the sit-in, which started at 7 a.m., human resources worker Anelin Rojas, 30, told Reuters news service while perched cross-legged with a novel in the middle of Caracas’ main highway. "And I’ll be back every day there’s a protest, for as long as is necessary. Unfortunately, we are up against a dictatorship."
Appeals to troops
Maduro repeatedly has accused the United States of leading an attempt to overthrow his government. He has ordered troops to block opposition marches, using equipment including tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.
On Sunday, Maduro opponents sought to win over the troops to their way of thinking.
Dozens of women in black converged on the National Guard’s headquarters in Caracas, in a Mother’s Day appeal to the country’s armed forces to "listen to your mothers" and set aside weapons.
"Today, Venezuelan mothers have come to talk to the soldiers, to the National Guard, at all the barracks in Venezuela," said former National Assembly lawmaker Maria Corina Machado, according to Reuters. These women are telling soldiers "not to obey orders from the dictatorship, from the dictator who has robbed food and brought blood to his country. Listen to your mothers!"
Separately, the head of the opposition-led National Assembly also urged security forces toward conversation, not combat.
Maduro "is pushing you as an institution to ignore the constitutional order of Venezuela and you have to stop that situation," Julio Borges, the lawmaker, said at a news conference Sunday.
VOA Spanish Service correspondent Alvaro Algarra contributed to this report from Caracas.