The Latest: France demands release of Venezuela journalists

World

The latest on the political crisis in Venezuela (all times local):

10:45 a.m.

The French Foreign Ministry says it has demanded that Venezuelan authorities release two French journalists working for television channel TMC.

The journalists were arrested on Tuesday.

In a press statement Thursday, the Quai d’Orsay said it has been in contact with officials in Caracas “since the moment our compatriots were arrested.”

It did not suggest a motive for the arrests or provide further information.

Jorge Arreaza, the foreign minister of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, has blamed foreign journalists for entering the country without work permits.

The European Parliament meanwhile has called on the European Union’s member states to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president as Venezuela’s political crisis deepens.

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10:30 a.m.

An independent U.N. human rights monitor says economic sanctions are compounding a “grave crisis” in Venezuela.

Idriss Jazairy, a special rapporteur focusing on the negative impact of sanctions, expressed concern about “reports” that the U.S. sanctions were “aimed at changing the government of Venezuela.” He did not specify the reports.

He added: “The use of sanctions by outside powers to overthrow an elected government is in violation of all norms of international law.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to use the “full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.” The Trump administration slapped sanctions on Venezuela that could starve the country of billions in oil revenue.

Jazairy’s office has taken funds from donors including Russia, one of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s staunchest supporters.

Special rapporteurs do not speak for the United Nations, but are appointed by the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council.

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9:45 a.m.

The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry says there are no plans underway for evacuation of the country’s diplomats or other citizens from Venezuela, but is declining to comment on why a Russian airliner showed up in the Venezuelan capital’s airport.

The arrival of the Boeing 777 belonging to Russian airline Nordwind on Monday has led to widespread speculation, including that Venezuelan officials might be aiming to spirit tons of gold reserves out of the country as a political crisis deepens.

The Associated Press was unable to verify the authenticity of that claim.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters Thursday that she could not comment on the airliner, “which was not sent for official goals.”

“I can say that this is not about evacuation of Russian diplomats, or their family members or Russian citizens that are employees of overseas agencies or companies,” she said.

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9:15 a.m.

The European Parliament is calling on the European Union’s member states to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president.

The 28-member bloc is still defining its position on the crisis there.

The EU legislature approved by a 439-104 margin a resolution that also condemned the continued violence and the detention of journalists who sought to cover events there.

“All of Venezuela is watching us,” said Esteban Gonzalez Pons of the Christian Democrat EPP group. “Let’s make Venezuelan history today by recognizing the democratic and legitimate power of Venezuela.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on the South American country to release journalists who were arrested covering the crisis.

“We expect them to be released immediately,” she said in Bucharest where EU foreign ministers are set to discuss the crisis later Thursday.

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5 a.m.

The Spanish government has condemned the detention of three reporters and a driver working for Spain’s state-run EFE news agency in Venezuela’s capital.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s office issued a statement Thursday calling for their immediate release.

EFE has reported that Colombian photographer Leonardo Munoz disappeared on Wednesday morning in Caracas and that two more reporters, Spaniard Gonzalo Dominguez and Colombian Mauren Barriga, were later taken away from their office by members of Venezuelan intelligence service Sebin. Spain’s government says a Venezuelan driver working for the news agency was also taken into custody. He wasn’t identified.

Sanchez has said that Spain’s government will endorse Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela if embattled President Nicolas Maduro doesn’t call a presidential election by Sunday.

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