By Rebecca Shabad - 03/14/14 04:54 PM EDT
Venezuela’s foreign minister on Friday called Secretary of State John Kerry a “murderer,” accusing him of helping to inspire demonstrations against his government.
"Every time we're about to isolate and reduce the violence, Mr. Kerry comes out with a declaration and immediately the street protests are activated," Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said in a speech broadcast on state TV, according to Reuters.
"Mr. Kerry, we denounce to the whole world, you encourage the violence in Venezuela. ... We denounce you as a murderer of the Venezuelan people,” he said.
More than two dozen people have died since last month in protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.
Venezuela has since expelled three U.S. consular officials, who were accused of doing undercover work at universities there using student visas.
Kerry has repeatedly condemned what he has called “senseless violence” in the South American country as a result of the government’s crackdown on protestors.
On Thursday, leaders of the Senate and House committees overseeing foreign policy introduced legislation that would impose sanctions against Venezuela’s government.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a bill that would pledge $15 million to support democratic efforts by the protestors. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced a similar bill in the House.
While administration officials have condemned the violence, the White House has not made clear whether it will pursue sanctions.