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'The government is promoting the violence'

Ana Plasencia
April 17, 2017

Two more people have died in protests against the government of Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela's opposition leader Henrique Capriles explains to DW why it's the government's responsibility to end the conflict.

Venezuela | Oppositionsführer Henrique Capriles
Image: Reuters/M. Bello

DW: The confrontation between government and opposition in Venezuela is continuing, with no sign of reconciliation. The power struggle is increasingly taking place on the street, and it's now claimed another two victims, including a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed. How can the spiral of violence in Venezuela be stopped?

Henrique Capriles: We Venezuelans are not violent; I think the world has realized that. We are a peaceful people trying to escape this crisis by means that are written into the constitution. What will end the phase in which our country currently finds itself? Allowing free and democratic elections and respecting the constitution, to put a stop to this coup d'état that's being staged and controlled by Maduro together with the Supreme Court.

What is the limit of the violence the opposition is prepared to endure?

The violence is being promoted by the government itself. The government has paramilitary groups - armed civilians - that operate on the fringes of legality. We've also seen repression by state security forces. What we've experienced is rampant oppression, and the government has to stop this. The government is violating human rights. A thing like that has no statute of limitations. All democratic governments and international organizations have spoken out about this. Maduro has to understand that he can't place himself above the constitution, or on the fringes of the constitution, and that violating the constitution has consequences.

Venezuela Protesten gegen Präsident Nicolas Maduro in Caracas
Protesters have clashed with police during anti-Maduro rallies in CaracasImage: Reuters/C. Garcia Rawlins

What role should the international community play?

We've now heard a clear position from the international community for the first time. This explicitly calls on Maduro to respect the constitution. There's been a breach of the constitutional order, which must be reinstated. This is the position Germany and the European Union have taken. Just recently, it was announced that my political rights were being revoked for 15 years. The European Union and Germany responded to this, too.

What political scope do you still have now that your political rights have been withdrawn?

I don't recognize this decision. Of course I will fight for it to be rescinded. Maduro believes that by doing this he can prevent me from standing as a candidate and becoming president. He believes that when they decide to call an election, he can choose who gets to stand. He believes he can choose his opposition. That is absolutely unacceptable to the Venezuelan people.

Henrique Capriles Radonski is regarded as the opposition's most promising candidate for the coming elections in 2018. The Venezuelan politician is currently governor of the federal state of Miranda. Last week the government withdrew his right to hold public office for 15 years. What effect this has on his post as governor remains unclear.

The interview was conducted by Ana Plasencia