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Carter offers mediation to fractured Venezuela

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Former president Jimmy Carter plans a peace-making visit to Venezuela, he said this week to leaders of opposing sides in the South American country’s latest political unrest.

In letters to President Nicolas Maduro and political opponent Henrique Capriles, whom Maduro narrowly defeated for the office in 2013, Carter requested private meeting in April when he’s scheduled to visit Venezuela for promotion of a health program, according to the Associated Press.

Protests against food shortages and violent crime began across the country in January, but have frequently resulted in riots that have left at least 15 dead, over 100 injured, and many hundreds arrested. Supermarkets, clothing stores and other businesses have been looted, as well. (See Huffington Post video on the crisis included on this page.)

In his letters, Carter stressed that protestors should send their message through nonviolent and law-abiding avenues, while the government should honor citizens’ rights to peaceful demonstration without risk of arrest.

Carter is respected by Maduro, who praised the former president at a recent press conference. Relations between the Venezuelan and U.S. governments are tense, however.

Maduro expelled three U.S. diplomats on Feb. 17 with claims they were aiding efforts to overthrow his presidency. The U.S. responded in kind on Feb. 26, giving three Venezuelan envoys 48 hours to leave the country.

The protestors might not receive the former Georgia governor as well as Maduro should, and have recently criticized him and his Carter Center for its approval of 2004 recall election results that left Hugo Chavez as president.

Carter is known for successfully mediating opposing sides, however, including arrangement of the historic 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Last year Venezuela reached recent highs in inflation and scarcity indexes, leaving even basic food staples difficult for consumers to obtain. Triggered by the murder of former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear during a robbery on Jan. 6, demonstrations against current social woes – dubbed “Venezuelan Spring” – have been ongoing since.

The 39th president of the United States, Carter, 89, has remained active in diplomatic efforts across the globe since leaving the White House after one term in 1981.

In 2002 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for addressing human rights and social issues through The Carter Center.

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