| CARACAS, March 1
CARACAS, March 1 Venezuela's government said
"right-wing extremists" were lobbying in Hollywood for movie
stars to denounce President Nicolas Maduro's socialist
administration from the stage at Sunday's Academy Awards.
Venezuela has been rocked by its worst unrest in a decade,
with at least 17 people killed in violence around opposition
demonstrations and clashes between hooded protesters, security
forces, and pro-government militants.
Maduro's critics are demanding he quit and accuse him of
repression, while the president says "fascists" working with
U.S. financiers want to engineer a coup like the one in 2002
that briefly toppled his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
"Right-wing extremists are lobbying in Hollywood, looking
for pronouncements against Venezuela at the Oscars!" Information
Minister Delcy Rodriguez said on her Twitter account
@DrodriguezMinci on Saturday.
"This worldwide operation to discredit our homeland is
backed by a powerful media platform serving imperial interests."
The turmoil has already drawn comment from entertainers,
with singers Madonna and Cher criticizing Maduro on social
media, and Venezuela's president - a former bus driver -
verbally sparring with Panamanian salsa star Ruben Blades.
During Chavez's 14-year rule he won high-profile support
from celebrities including Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn,
filmmaker Oliver Stone and Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona.
Stone, whose documentary "South of the Border" profiled
Chavez and other Latin American leftist leaders, often hailed
the self-styled revolutionary's efforts to alleviate poverty.
"To those who tweet me vile and ugly comments about
Venezuela," the U.S. filmmaker said on Twitter this week, "I've
never experienced such verbal violence on social media."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosts the
86th annual Academy Awards, the film industry's highest honors,
on Sunday at a ceremony in Hollywood.
(Editing by Diane Craft)