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Regional bloc warns against meddling in Venezuela

by James Tweedie

REGIONAL bloc Alba urged respect for Venezuelan sovereignty on Monday, following the jailing of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Alba) warned against foreign powers interfering in Venezuela’s judicial processes in response to Mr Lopez’s conviction for inciting anti-government violence last year that left at least 43 people dead.

The Popular Will party leader was sentenced to almost 14 years in prison last week after being convicted of public incitement to violence and criminal association.

“The Alba member states cannot accept behaviour that seeks to interfere in the domestic affairs of a state, on the part of another state,” the organisation said in a communique.

Member states expressed their “concern over the assessment of judicial decisions made in the frame of rights and its sovereign power, in order to address terrorist actions and to effectively protect the victims’ human rights.”

The body condemned “the double standard that undermines international law and favours the political conditions to take down constitutional governments in order to take over their strategic natural resources,” while concealing “human rights violations on their own territories.”

Alba, which takes part of its name from 19th-century liberation struggle leader and pan-Latin Americanist Simon Bolivar, was founded by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004.

Other members include Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua as well as six English-speaking Caribbean island nations including Grenada.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s government made fresh claims of Venezuelan military aircraft violating its airspace.

Colombian air force chief General Carlos Bueno said that a radar station detected a Venezuelan plane about 10pm on Sunday.

The pilot explained to air traffic controllers that he was forced to deviate from his planned flight path due to bad weather.

Tensions have been high between the two neighbours since a Colombian paramilitary gang attacked a Venezuelan army patrol last month, prompting the closure of key border crossings.

On Monday Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino warned the military to be on high alert, saying Colombia was seeking to provoke an incident on the border.

He added that some 6,000 troops had been sent to Venezuela’s western edge to improve security.

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