By Mario Trujillo - 03/10/14 07:27 AM EDT
Vice President Biden on Sunday called the Venezuelan government’s crackdown on protesters in the country “alarming” and accused President Nicolas Maduro of concocting “outlandish conspiracy theories about the United States.”
Biden made the remarks to a Chilean newspaper, El Mercuri, as he visits Chile to attend the swearing in of incoming president Michelle Bachelet.
He said the Venezuelan government’s response to protests is not what the United States expects from a country that has signed onto human rights treaties.
Biden named a series of violations, including, “Confronting peaceful protesters with force and in some cases with armed vigilantes; limiting the freedoms of press and assembly necessary for legitimate political debate; [and] demonizing and arresting political opponents; and dramatically tightening restrictions on the media.”
More than a 20 people have been killed in the recent protests against increased crime, the flailing economy and the lack of basic goods in Venezuela. The demonstrations have widened from their origination at universities last month in the first major uprising since Maduro took over the presidency after the death of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, last year.
Biden accused Maduro of refusing to engage in dialogue with the opposition and condemned his attempts at distraction.
Maduro has accused the United States of helping to finance the opposition in an attempt to overthrow him. He expelled three U.S. diplomats from the country last month.
"Maduro has thus far tried to distract his people from the profound issues at stake in Venezuela by concocting totally false and outlandish conspiracy theories about the United States,” Biden said.
Biden said Maduro’s actions remind him of a bygone era.
"The situation in Venezuela reminds me of previous eras, when strongmen governed through violence and oppression; and human rights, hyperinflation, scarcity, and grinding poverty wrought havoc on the people of the hemisphere," Biden said.
The House recently approved a resolution supporting demonstrators there. On Friday, the United States rejected an Organization of American States declaration that gave full support to the Venezuelan government’s attempt at dialogue with the opposition, among other things.
“The United States cannot agree to the declaration's call for ‘full OAS support’ to a dialogue process orchestrated by only one actor. The OAS has a responsibility to remain neutral; it cannot take sides,” according to a footnote in the resolution.