Statement by the Press Secretary on Venezuela

We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents.  Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent.  We have consistently called on the Venezuelan government to release those it has unjustly jailed as well as to improve the climate of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.  These are essential to a functioning democracy, and the Venezuelan government has an obligation to protect these fundamental freedoms.  The Venezuelan government should release all political prisoners, including dozens of students, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez and Mayors Daniel Ceballos and Antonio Ledezma.