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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Socialist Mecca Venezuela In Fourth Week Of Violence


Venezuela death toll rises 

as unrest enters fourth week


By Diego Oré and Brian Ellsworth | CARACAS
Gunmen killed two more people during political unrest in Venezuela on Monday,
bringing the total number of deaths to 12 this month, as anti-government protests
 entered a fourth week with mass "sit-ins" to press for early elections.
A 42-year-old man who worked for local government in the Andean state of
Merida died from a gunshot in the neck at a rally in favor of President Nicolas
Maduro's government, the state ombudsman and prosecutor's office said.
Another 54-year-old man was shot dead in the chest during a protest in the western
agricultural state of Barinas, the state prosecutor's office added without specifying
 the circumstances.
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Seven others were injured in both places.
The latest deaths come amid a month of protests that have sparked politically-
motivated shootings and clashes between security forces armed with rubber
bullets and tear gas and protesters wielding rocks and Molotov cocktails.
Eleven people have also died during night-time looting.
The ruling Socialist Party accuses foes of seeking a violent coup with U.S.
connivance, while the opposition says he is a dictator repressing peaceful protest.
The opposition's main demands are for elections, the release of jailed activists
 and autonomy for the opposition-led congress. But protests are also fueled by
 the crippling economic crisis in the oil-rich nation of 30 million people.
"I have an empty stomach because I can't find food," said Jeannette Canozo,
 a 66-year-old homemaker, who said police used rubber bullets against protesters
 blocking a Caracas avenue with trash and bathtubs in the early morning.

left
right
A fireman tries to extinguish a fire during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas,
 Venezuela April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
1/15
Demonstrators wore the yellow, blue and red colors of Venezuela's flag and held
signs denouncing shortages, inflation and violent crime as they chanted: "This
 government has fallen!"
In the capital, they streamed from several points onto a major highway, where
hundreds of people sat, carrying bags of supplies, playing card games, and
 shielding themselves from the sun with hats and umbrellas.
In western Tachira, at another of the "sit-ins" planned for all of Venezuela's 23
 states, some played the board-game Ludo, while others played soccer or enjoyed
 street theater.
At protests in southern Bolivar state, a professor gave a lecture on politics while
 some people sat down to play Scrabble and others cooked soup over small fires
 in the streets.
'WE'RE NOT GOING'
Following a familiar daily pattern, the demonstrations were largely peaceful until
mid-afternoon, when scattered skirmishes broke out and the shooting incidents
 occurred.
"In the morning they seem peaceful, in the afternoon they become terrorists and
 at night bandits and killers," Socialist Party official Diosdado Cabello said of the
 opposition. "Let me tell them straight ... Nicolas (Maduro) is not going."
This month's turbulence is Venezuela's worst since 2014 when 43 people died in
months of mayhem sparked by protests against Maduro, the 54-year-old successor
to late leader Hugo Chavez.
The latest protests began when the pro-government Supreme Court assumed the
 powers of the opposition-controlled congress. The court quickly reversed course,
 but its widely condemned move still galvanized the opposition.
The government's disqualification from public office
of two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles,
who would be an opposition favorite to replace Maduro,
gave further impetus to the demonstrations.
"I'm staying here until 6 p.m. We're simply warming up
 because the day will come that we are all coming to the
street until this government goes," said Gladys Avariano,
 a 62-year-old lawyer, under an umbrella at the Caracas
"sit-in."
More than 1,400 people have been arrested this month
over the protests, with 636 still detained as of Monday, according to local rights
 group Penal Forum.
Facing exhortations from around the world to allow Venezuelans to vote, Maduro
 has called for local state elections - delayed from last year - to be held soon.
But Cabello said opposition parties could be barred from competing. And there is no
sign the government will allow the next presidential election, slated for late 2018, to
be brought forward as the opposition demands.
Given the country's economic crisis, with millions short of food, pollsters say the
ruling Socialist Party would fare badly in any free and fair vote at the moment.
Trying to keep the pressure on Maduro, the opposition is seeking new strategies, such
 as a silent protest held on Saturday and Monday's "sit-ins".
While some small demonstrations have been held in poorer and traditionally pro-
government areas, most poor Venezuelans are more preoccupied with putting food
on the table.
(Additional reporting by Andreina Aponte, Carlos Garcia Rawlins and Efrain
 Otero in Caracas, and Anggy Polanco and Carlos Eduardo Ramirez in San Cristobal;
 Writing by Girish Gupta and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by James Dalgleish and
 Diane Craft)