Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Business | By Max Garcia

'Mother of all protests' in Venezuela

'Mother of all protests' in Venezuela

Maduro, who narrowly won election in 2013, has been struggling to hold on to power in a country where plummeting oil prices, corruption and mismanagement have spawned an economic, social and political crisis that features rampant crime and food shortages.

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay on Monday signed a joint statement asking for the Venezuelan government "to guarantee the right to peaceful demonstration", and avoid violence against protesters.

Government supporters held opposing demonstration as backers dressed in red t-shirts and carried posters of popular late President Hugo Chavez, who governed from 1999 to 2013.

Venezuela has now seen weeks of clashes between demonstrators and police.

Citing witnesses in Caracas, Reuters reports that Carlos Moreno, a teenage student who had not planned to join the demonstration, was shot in the head after "government supporters approached an opposition gathering and fired shots".

Lawmaker Olivia Lozano told the El Nacional newspaper the perpetrators were supporters of the ruling party.

In the capital of Caracas, organizers have announced 26 meeting points and said marchers would try to reach the city center to turn over a list of their demands to government officials.

Demonstrators in downtown Caracas were dispersed by police using tear gas during the largest in a wave of protests this month by opponents of President Nicolas Maduro. Over 400 people were arrested during protests on Wednesday, rights group Penal Forum said.

The 23-year-old woman, Paola Ramirez, died after being shot in the head in the western city of San Cristobal, the state prosecution service said later in a statement. The government last year abruptly postponed regional elections the opposition was heavily favoured to win, and cut off a petition drive to force a referendum seeking Maduro's removal before elections late next year.

Capriles said that one of the fundamental requirements for the opposition to abandon street protests is for the democratically-elected government of Maduro to schedule general elections despite the fact the Maduro's term does not end until 2019 and that it runs contrary to what is established in the country's constitution. In the past, the groups known as collectives have operated like shock troops firing on protesters as security forces stand by. He says Venezuela's government is not allowing the opposition "to organize in ways that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people".

The President has accused the U.S. of funding right-wing opposition groups and called for the expansion of armed civilian militias following weeks of violent protests in the nation's capital.

"Tomorrow even more of us have to come out", he said, adding "same place, same time".

The public prosecutor office said it is investigating both cases.

Demonstrators clog a Caracas highway on Wednesday, shouting their resistance to President Nicolas Maduro. He also said authorities in recent hours had rounded up unnamed members of an underground cell of conspirators at Caracas hotels, including some who were allegedly planning to stir up violence at the march.

Opponents are pushing for Maduro's removal through early elections and the release of scores of political prisoners.

“Today they tried to defeat a power, and they failed again, ” Maduro said.

State Department Mark Toner says USA officials are reviewing the details of an nearly 20-year-old lawsuit that led the Venezuelan government to seize a General Motors factory in the South American country.

Henrique Capriles Radonski, the major opposition leader in Caracas, called for another protest on Thursday in a news conference after the protests were repressed.

"A fair, predictable and transparent judicial system is critical to implementing the essential economic reforms critical to restoring growth and addressing the needs of the Venezuelan people", State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

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