Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Economy | By Annette Adams

Venezuelans gear up for major march against Maduro

Venezuelans gear up for major march against Maduro

Tens of thousands of protesters demanding elections and denouncing what they consider to be an increasingly dictatorial government were met by a curtain of tear gas and rubber bullets as they attempted to march to downtown Caracas on Wednesday.

Some protesters in Las Mercedes neighborhood even had to cross the Guaire River, a contaminated narrow river in Caracas, to escape from the many bombs that the National Guard threw at them.

An hour into the march in Caracas, a 17-year-old boy was shot in the head, according to the Venezuela's public ministry, which said it had started investigating the incident.The teenager, later identified as Carlos Moreno, died while undergoing surgery, a hospital representative told CNN.

At least five deaths and hundreds of arrests have been blamed on the response to paralyzing protests that were triggered by the Supreme Court's shock decision three weeks ago to strip the opposition-controlled legislature of its last remaining powers. The charges that Venezuela is moving toward a full-blown dictatorship come against the backdrop of an ever-deepening economic crisis.

Nearly one thousand people have been arrested. A group of youths with their faces covered tore down street signs and billboards for makeshift barricades.

The Supreme Court's decision has energized Venezuela's fractious opposition, which had been struggling to channel growing disgust with Maduro over widespread food shortages, triple-digit inflation and rampant crime.

The European Union today called for calm in Venezuela after "highly regrettable" deaths during protests against the government of the oil-rich country.

Mr Maduro ordered troops onto the streets of Caracas before the rally and called on his supporters to attend.

Maduro's opposition is also demanding new elections, which were indefinitely postponed past year - mere months after Maduro also canceled a recall referendum that could have ousted him from power.

Thousands of protesters yesterday took to the streets, led by opposition figurehead and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, calling for "new presidential elections and the release of jailed opposition politicians", the BBC reports. "I tried to protect her as much as I could", added the boyfriend, crying beside her dead body.

Amid a sea of Venezuelan flags the marchers shouted: "Who are we?" The opposition sees the government measures as turning Venezuela into a almost full-blown dictatorship.

Many were state workers like Leidy Marquez, who was bused in from Tachira state, on the other side of the country, along with co-workers at state-run oil giant PDVSA.

The minister said a preliminary investigation suggests that the Vente Venezuela attack on Ramirez was planned in advance.

The U.S. secretary of state says the Trump administration is concerned about the political turmoil in Venezuela and feels Maduro is trying to squash the voice of his opponents.

This new wave of protests began early this month after the pro-government Supreme Court tried to dissolve the opposition-controlled congress - only backtracking amid global pressure. We will always be committed to peaceful instruments, the democratic ways, to resolve our differences with the opposition, despite its coup intentions and its violent behavior, he said. The Bolivarian militias that were created during the reign of Hugo Chavez will be armed by the Venezuelan government, were some 100,000 in attendance, but loyalists are estimated to number somewhere around 400,000. But you'd never be able to tell from the information published by Venezuelan official sources - including the vice-president, Telesur, and VTV - that have been reporting exclusively on pro-government rallies in which large numbers of people participated, including some who sing and dance "in defense of peace".

"Those responsible for the criminal repression of peaceful democratic activity, for the undermining of democratic institutions and practices, and for gross violations of human rights, will be held individually accountable for their actions by the Venezuelan people and their institutions, as well as by the worldwide community", the U.S. State Department said in a statement Tuesday.

Massive protests against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro were held on Wednesday throughout the country as organized demonstrations outside of the Venezuelan embassies in Colombia and Peru were also conducted.

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