Biden Said to Back External Mediator of Venezuela Conflict

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden discussed with Latin American leaders the possibility of using third-party mediation to defuse the violence in Venezuela, an administration official said.

During a visit to Chile for the inauguration of that country’s president, Biden told regional leaders that a solution to Venezuela’s political turmoil must involve a dialogue between protesters and the government, said the official, who requested anonymity because the conversations weren’t public.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said foreign ministers of the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, will vote in Chile tomorrow on sending a peace negotiating mission to Venezuela, according to EFE.

Biden said that creating an effective democracy entails protecting the rights of all citizens, including the right to peaceful protest, in addition to choosing leaders through free elections. Accusations by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that the U.S. has secretly encouraged the protesters had no basis in fact, Biden told regional leaders, the official said.

Venezuela has been rocked by protests over the past month as a dollar shortage crimps imports, leaving supermarket shelves partially empty and pushing inflation to 56 percent, the fastest in the world. The protests against Maduro’s government have left at least 21 people dead.

Maduro said March 9 that similar comments by Biden over the weekend were an “aggression” aimed at encouraging a U.S.- supported coup attempt.

“Why does Joe Biden attack Venezuela when he arrives in Chile?” Maduro said on state television. “Because they know the coup attempt is faltering and he wants to encourage the coup plotters.”

Stabilizing Democracy

Maduro decided not to attend today’s inauguration of Michelle Bachelet as Chile’s president in order to help stabilize democracy in Venezuela, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said on state television.

“He regrets not being here, but right now it is fundamental to consolidate the victory against armed violent groups,” Jaua said.

The U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution today calling for a third-party investigation into alleged repression of the protests and a dialogue through the Organization of American States.

The senators called for the U.S. to “work with other countries in the hemisphere to actively encourage a process of dialogue between the government of Venezuela and the political opposition through the good offices of the Organization of American States.”

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