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CARACAS (Reuters) - Members of Venezuela's national soccer team called on President Nicolas Maduro to limit the use of force against opposition protesters in a video called "Stop," released on social media on Friday.
Six weeks of anti-government demonstrations, driven by anger over a brutal economic crisis, have left nearly 40 people dead. The opposition accuses Maduro of violently breaking up the protests, which Maduro calls a violent effort to overthrow him.
Players including Salomon Rondon, a striker playing professionally in England for West Bromwich Albion, and Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, a defender for Nantes in France, called for an end to the crackdown.
"Venezuela demands freedom, enough of so much repression and death," said Nicolas "Miku" Fedor, a forward at Rayo Vallecano, a team in Spain's second division.
The players form part of Venezuela's national team, known popularly as the "vinotinto," or "red wine," in reference to their burgundy jerseys.
"How long will this go on? Venezuela does not deserve this," said Fernando Aristeguieta, a striker for CD Nacional in Portugal.
He also lamented the slaying on Wednesday of Miguel Castillo, 27, a protester whom he called a personal friend.
Venezuelan players from Major League Baseball in the United States released a similar video this week, and athletes from various sports have called for moments of silence to honor the dead.
Venezuela's socialist government enjoyed a decade-long oil boom that helped late President Hugo Chavez finance anti-poverty efforts and promote his socialist ideology in Latin America.
But the 2014 collapse of oil prices left the OPEC member country unable to maintain a complex system of subsidies and consumer price controls, leaving supermarket shelves bare and citizens struggling to pay bills under triple-digit inflation.
Maduro has come under increasing pressure from Hollywood stars and pop icons that once lauded the country as an icon of social equality, but he has said unfair foreign media coverage has created a skewed view of the country.
Reporting by Eyanir Chinea, writing by Brian Ellsworth, editing by G Crosse