Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro launched a new plan to combat violent crime, inviting three opposition governors, including two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, to sign on to the strategy.
"I'll meet with you, the three opposition governors, and receive you at the Miraflores Palace whenever you want, and we'll talk and I'll explain directly the tasks that fall to you in the Pacification Plan," Maduro said in a public event Friday.
"My message to you is one of peace and, yes, courage, without giving in to the blackmail of the far right," Maduro said in remarks addressed to Capriles, governor of the central state of Miranda; and the governors of the southern state of Amazonas, Liborio Guarulla, and the western state of Lara, Henry Falcon.
His remarks came at the end of a week in which three people were shot and killed and more than 60 wounded in clashes arising from marches to protest violent crime, product shortages and Maduro's left-wing policies.
New clashes pitting National Guard troops against demonstrators demanding the release of all those arrested in this week's marches broke out Friday in Caracas.
Venezuela's government says government opponents such as Leopoldo Lopez, who has been ordered arrested on a raft of charges that include criminal conspiracy, homicide and terrorism, are trying to topple his government in a coup.
Maduro launched his new crime-fighting plan this week in response to high levels of violent crime that claimed 11,000 lives last year, according to official figures. Some non-government organization put the number of homicide victims in 2013 at more than 20,000.
"This is the path to constructing a stable and permanent peace," the president said of his program.
The plan calls for further progress with a quadrant-based police patrol system aimed at quickening response times and incentives encouraging more university graduates to pursue police careers.
Other measures include incorporating and training "the national militia in all these peace-related tasks," taking firearms out of the hands of ordinary citizens and dismantling criminal gangs.
"We've already identified a map of 600 gangs," Maduro said, adding that "with the law in hand they can all be disbanded."
Maduro also unveiled a nationwide plan, due to be launched in early March and involving the participation of sports, cultural and artistic groups and movements, aimed at creating crime-free public spaces.
"Plazas of peace, sports fields of peace, boulevards of peace, public spaces of peace, roads of peace, highways of peace ... in these territories not one violent action can occur, a boyfriend can't even be slapped in the face," Maduro said.
The president, who was accompanied at the public event by 20 pro-government governors and several Cabinet ministers, said the plan marks the start of a "new model" in the fight against crime.
"A revolution of love, a profound revolution to unite us in new values," Maduro said. EFE