Joe Biden Dismisses Maduro's 'Outlandish Conspiracy Theories' About U.S. Involvement — Venezuela News Roundup

Vice president was in Chile for an inauguration


The Latest on Venezuela: 

Joe Biden visited Chile this weekend for the inauguration of the incoming president, Michelle Bachelet. He gave an interview to a local newspaper, telling it he was alarmed by the situation in Venezeula and deriding "outlandish conspiracy theories" about U.S. involvement.

Previous Venezuela News:

A police officer and a civilian died inclashes in Caracas March 7, bringing the death toll from the protests between citizens and the government up to 20.

Meanwhile, President Nicolas Maduro has called for a meeting with South American leaders and has broken off relations with Panama.

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez have introduced a resolution to condemn the Venezulean government's treatment of protesters and are calling for targeted sanctions against the country's leaders.

Venezuela's weeklong carnival holiday began in late February, though unrest still simmers in Caracas. NBC News reports:

President Nicolas Maduro's government got a jump start of the national holiday by two days in hopes that it might cool off the nation's worst unrest in a decade.

The period of revelry preceding the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday is usually marked by Venezuelans abandoning cities to relax and celebrate at the beach.

In San Cristobal city, demonstrators manned a barricade on Thursday in an upper-middle-class neighborhood, and said National Guard troops had fired teargas at them but failed to dislodge their protest. Venezuela's western region has seen the worst unrest, with daily clashes between students and security forces.

A plan for a meeting Monday between Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leaders  hit a snag as opposition leader Henrique Caprles declined to attend. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the death toll in Venezuela is up to 13 following weekend conflicts. Businessweek notes:

The talks were scheduled after two weeks of unrest that have claimed the lives of 13 people, according to the government. Demonstrators protesting shortages of basic goods, the world's fastest inflation and rising crime today blockaded streets in eastern Caracas while government supporters on motorbikes gathered outside the palace saying they wouldn't allow the opposition to retake power.  

Previously Ed Krayewski noted how the violent crackdown in the country was getting much less media attention in the Western world compared to the uprisings in Ukraine.

UPDATE: Reuters is reporting that the family of protest leader Leopoldo Lopez claims that he is being held alone in military jail cell. The charges against Lopez, which included terrorism and murder, have been reduced to charges of instigating arson, damage and criminal gatherings. 

UPDATE: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says he will nominate a new U.S. ambassador

UPDATE: The United States has expelled three Venezuelan diplomats. A week ago, Venezuela did the same to the United States, accusing Americans of fomenting rebellions there.