The Latest: Latin America nations condemn Venezuela violence

An anti-government protester holds a Bible under the watch of riot police during a march in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 20, 2017. Tens of thousands of protesters asking for the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro flooded the streets again Thursday, one day after three people were killed and hundreds arrested in the biggest anti-government demonstrations in years. (Fernando Llano/Associated Press)

CARACAS, Venezuela — The latest on the protests and counter demonstrations in Venezuela (all times local):

9:15 p.m.

The governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay are “energetically condemning” the violence in Venezuela and lamenting that international calls for the ongoing demonstrations to be peaceful have been ignored.

Argentina’s foreign ministry released a statement saying the nine countries back the declaration by the United Nations secretary-general calling for “concrete measures to be adopted by all sides to reduce the polarization and create the conditions necessary to face the country’s challenges for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.”

It calls on Venezuelan authorities to respect rights and “retake the path of democratic institutionality,” release political prisoners and set dates for elections, among other things.


8:30 p.m.

A day after Venezuela seized a General Motors plant, President Nicolas Maduro has ordered an investigation into cellphone operator Movistar for allegedly being part of a “coup march” organized by adversaries of his socialist government.

Maduro says the subsidiary of Spain’s Telefonica company “sent millions of messages to users every two hours” in support of Wednesday’s big anti-government protests, which left at least three people dead.

A message from the president broadcast on television and radio stations Thursday said: “I denounce Movistar de Venezuela and have asked for an investigation because they have joined the calls for a coup in the country and that is not their function.”

Maduro frequently accuses protesters and the opposition of plotting coups against him.

His government seized General Motors’ assembly plant in Venezuela on Wednesday amid the protests demanding a new presidential election and calling for an end to the economic chaos that has produced shortages of food and medicine as well as soaring inflation.


7:45 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is criticizing the Venezuelan government over the seizure of General Motors assembly plant in the South American nation.

The Florida Republican says the socialist administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has again shown “its lack of regard for the rule-of-law and the most basic democratic norms. “

In Rubio’s words, “This latest action only confirms the ultimate goal of the Maduro regime to allow for a Cuban-style form of government, where human rights and property rights have no value.”

He says U.S. and other foreign companies operating in Venezuela “should have no illusions about the risks of doing business under the current regime.”


5:50 p.m.

Tens of thousands of protesters have been on the streets of Venezuela’s capital, but all eyes have focused on just one person — a young man who stripped down to his sneakers and walked naked through clouds of tear gas and lines of riot police.

A hush fell over a crowd of protesters who had shut down Caracas’ main highway when the lanky young man approached. Wearing just sneakers and tube socks, he approached heavily armed police in gas masks. There, he asked officers to allow the protesters to assemble peacefully, and held out a Bible.

The man’s back was marked with bruises from rubber bullets. At one point, he climbed onto an armored police vehicle and officers shouted for him to get down. But for the most part, he created a zone of calm amid another chaotic day of a now three-week-old protest movement. Police kept their distance, and protesters hushed when he passed.

Photos and videos of the man have flooded Venezuelan social media.


3:30 p.m.

State Department Mark Toner says U.S. officials are reviewing…