Demonstrators help a girl overcome by tear gas as protest against the government of President Maduro in Caracas, February 22, 2014. The government arrested one of the main opposition leaders and several student activists. (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Via Cbc.ca
Demonstrators help a girl overcome by tear gas as protest against the government of President Maduro in Caracas, February 22, 2014. The government arrested one of the main opposition leaders and several student activists. (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins / via cbc.ca)

Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias Sanchez has joined a group of former presidents from four Latin American countries to scold the Venezuelan government this week for using force to contain a series of protests that have rocked the country since last month and on several occasions erupted into deadly violence.

The letter is signed by Oscar Arias Sánchez of Costa Rica, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Ricardo Lagos of Chile and Alejandro Toledo of Peru — all of whom identify as left of centre.

The former presidents’ open letter, posted Tuesday by two U.S. think tanks in Washington.

We have observed with concern and alarm developments in Venezuela in recent weeks,” the letter reads. “Peaceful student demonstrations protesting against government policies — a normal feature of any democratic society — have been met with disproportionate repression by security forces and with attacks by illegal armed groups which some sources report are linked to government parties.”

The letter, published by the Inter-American Dialog and the Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute, goes on to call for the release of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López and an investigation into allegations of torture. The former presidents also ask the protesters to be peaceful.

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