Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a press conference at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 14, 2014. The Venezuelan government is stepping up security operations in Caracas and other cities where demonstrators are blocking streets, avenues and highways. Maduro said that those involved in creating road barricades will be arrested. (AP Photo/Alejandro Cegarra)
President Nicolas Maduro proposed in a speech carried on national radio and television that the United States name an emissary to deal with his government and Unasur regarding the national crisis that has left at least 28 people dead over the past month in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan emissary will be the president of the Venezuelan legislature, Diosdado Cabello, and also participating in the dialogue will be the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, Maduro said before thousands of civilians and members of the military gathered Saturday at a military esplanade in Caracas.
Venezuela since Feb. 12 has been experiencing a wave of daily protests against Maduro's policies that, in some cases, have resulted in violence and taken the lives of 28 people, including both pro- and anti-government activists, several passersby and police officers.
Maduro blames the protests on the United States, which has rejected the accusation and has pointed to human rights abuses in the South American country.
The NGO Venezuelan Prison Forum on Saturday claimed that eight women were tortured in recent days by security forces in incidents related to the protests, raising to 48 the number of such cases that have been reported.
The documentation on the most recent eight cases says they involved "women from (west-central) Lara state, including a minor," the president of the NGO, attorney Alfredo Romero, said.
The human rights group is also processing "11 more complaints of torture that are in the process of being documented," Romero said.
"There exists a pattern within the Bolivarian National Guard regarding mistreatment of those who protest," Romero said at a press conference, referring to the country's militarized police, or GNB.
If disproportionate government repression were true, "we would still be gathering" the bodies of victims of the security forces, Maduro said.
"President Obama: give peace a chance. In that regard, let's launch the basis for a new type of relations between the U.S. and Venezuela and, if possible, Latin America and the Caribbean in the rest of the 21st century. Let the coups d'etat end, the military interventions, the threat and the use of force against the people!" Maduro said.