Jimmy Carter Plans Trip to Venezuela Amid Unrest

Pam WrightLife

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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will travel to Venezuela in April and hopes to meet with Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles to help ease tensions in the politically-torn country.

Carter expressed concerns about Venezuela’s escalating political crisis in a private letter sent this week to Capriles and President Nicolas Madura.

In the letter, Carter said that for dialogue aimed at easing tensions to succeed both sides must "send signals of their willingness to alleviate the present state of tension."

Carter urged the Venezuelan president to guarantee the right to the opposition to protest peacefully and for impartial justice for protesters already imprisoned.

"It is difficult for elected officials from opposition parties to resolve differences when they feel threatened and persecuted," Carter wrote.

According to the Washington Post, Carter contacted Capriles urging him to make clear the opposition's commitment to act within constitutional limits and strongly reject violence. He says the government must guarantee the right to peaceful protest and impartial justice for jailed protesters.

According to the Associated Press, Maracay Mayor Mario Briceno Iragorry said an anti-government protester had died in a confrontation. He said the protest turned deadly when gunmen opened fire on demonstrators who blocked a street to protest Maduro’s government.

At least 16 have died during protests that began Feb. 12.

On the same trip in April, Carter will promote a health program in Venezuela and Brazil that seeks to eliminate river blindness in one of the last areas where the disease is still present in Latin America - among the Yanomami Indians who live on the two countries' border, said Jennifer McCoy, Americas director for the Carter Center.

This isn't the first time Carter has intervened in Venezuela. The Carter Center mediated talks between Venezuela’s government and opposition after coup against then President Hugo Chavez in 2002.

Image via YouTube

Pam Wright