Venezuela

Venezuela’s opposition leader barred from leaving the country

Demonstrators hold candles during a vigil for the victims of the clashes with the governments security forces, during a protest against President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Several humanitarian organizations and the opposition have accused the security forces of using too much violence during demonstrations against the government, which have left dozens dead.
Demonstrators hold candles during a vigil for the victims of the clashes with the governments security forces, during a protest against President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Several humanitarian organizations and the opposition have accused the security forces of using too much violence during demonstrations against the government, which have left dozens dead. AP

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles said he was barred from leaving the country Thursday as he planned to address a United Nations session in New York about the country’s escalating violence.

In a video posted on Twitter, Capriles said his passport had been “stolen” from him by Venezuelan immigration authorities at Caracas’ international airport. In a subsequent release, he said authorities had annulled his passport, even though it was valid through 2020.

Capriles, the governor of Miranda State and a two-time presidential candidate, had planned to meet with the U.N. human rights commission to talk about the deaths and detentions that have taken place during national protests that began April 1.

Those protests, which have left more than 40 dead on both sides of the political divide, were sparked, in part, by the government’s decision to bar Capriles from elected office for 15 years.

Read More: Venezuelans demand elections, Maduro offers new constitution

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he hoped the passport revocation was not a “reprisal” linked to his scheduled meeting with Capriles on Friday. And Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro took to Twitter to call the government’s move “unacceptable” and a “flagrant violation” of human rights.

Amid growing calls for general elections, the Nicolás Maduro administration has been sidelining key opponents — most notably, politician Leopoldo López, who has been in jail since 2014.

Other opposition leaders have also said that they’ve had their passports revoked by the government.

“I apologize to all the people at the United Nations but I won’t be able to travel,” Capriles said. Instead of traveling, he said he would return to Caracas to join in ongoing protests Thursday.

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