Venezuela President Maduro calls on Obama for dialogue | News | DW | 22.02.2014
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Venezuela President Maduro calls on Obama for dialogue

Amid continued unrest, Venezuelan President Maduro has called for "high-level dialogue" with US President Obama. The move followed his decision to kick out journalists from US broadcaster CNN for alleged false reporting.

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During a news conference in Caracas on Friday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (pictured) challenged US President Barack Obama to hold bilateral talks. The call for dialogue comes amid anti-government protests against Maduro across Venezuela, which have turned deadly in recent days.

"I call a dialogue with you, President Obama...between the patriotic and revolutionary Venezuela and the United States and its government," Maduro told reporters, adding that only then could the two leaders "put the truth on the table."

Maduro, who is currently facing calls for his resignation over mass inflation and currency shortages, has accused US diplomats and journalists of fomenting the recent public unrest sweeping across Venezuela.

CNN journalists' credentials revoked

On Friday, Venezuelan officials revoked the credentials of CNN journalists working there. Maduro accused the US international news broadcaster of misrepresenting anti-government demonstrations.

"They want to show the world that there is a civil war in Venezuela," Maduro said, according to CNN's website on Friday.

"Enough war propaganda. I do not accept war propaganda against Venezuela," Maduro said, adding that CNN journalists should "get out."

The Venezuelan president expelled three US diplomats earlier this week for allegedly attempting to foment unrest through the country's university system.

Across Venezuela, thousands have taken to the streets since February 12 in calls for the president to step down. Maduro rose to power after Hugo Chavez died last year, but has since been criticized for supporting economic policies that have driven inflation over 50 percent and caused a shortage of not only everyday necessities, but also of hard currency.

The president has characterized the demonstrations, which have since spread across several cities, as a "fascist" plot led by opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to overthrow his government. His political foe emerged from hiding this week to face arrest on charges of arson and criminal incitement in connection with a mass rally on February 12.

Death toll rises

Meanwhile on Friday, Venezuela's attorney general, Luisa Ortega, confirmed the death toll.

"There are a total of 137 people injured and eight deaths," Ortega said.

The latest fatality occurred in the north-central state of Carabobo where 22-year-old college student and beauty queen Genesis Carmon died of a gunshot wound to the head. The majority of fatalities have been protesters who have come under fire, some by armed motorcyclists.

US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch condemned the violence in a statement on Friday.

"Venezuelan security forces have used excessive and unlawful force against protesters on multiple occasions since February 12, 2014, including beating detainees and shooting at crowds of unarmed people," the statement said.

The Venezuelan government has deployed police, National Guard troops and private militias across several cities, including Caracas, where they have been conducting night time sweeps.

kms/slk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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