World News

United States 'concerned' about turn of events in Venezuela

United States 'concerned' about turn of events in Venezuela

Venezuelan security forces fired tear gas as demonstrators staged what they billed as the "mother of all marches" against President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday, and a student caught up in a clash died after being shot in the head, Reuters reported. Over 400 people were arrested during protests on Wednesday, rights group Penal Forum said.

A woman was killed during a protest in the country's San Cristobal city in the state of Táchira, while a teenager was shot during a demonstration in the capital Caracas on Wednesday. There were no other details immediately available.

There has been reports of violent clashes between protesters, government supporters and police.

"Today the people stood by Maduro!" the president said, blasting his rivals as "anti-Christs".

Waving the country's red yellow and blue flags and shouting "No more dictatorship" and "Maduro out", tens of thousands of protesters converged from 26 different points spread across Caracas to attempt to march downtown to the Ombudsman's office.

The Supreme Court reversed the decisions amid mounting global pressure and after the Venezuelan Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, called the decisions "a rupture of the constitutional order".

The opposition counters that Maduro, deeply unpopular as Venezuelans grapple with triple-digit inflation and shortages of food and basic consumer goods, is seeking to stay in power indefinitely by barring opposition leaders from office and quashing independent state institutions.

With its momentum renewed, the opposition is now pushing for Maduro's removal and the release of scores of political prisoners.

Seven protesters have been killed in demonstrations against Maduro's government, the BBC reported.

Marchers in the opposition demonstration in Caracas included Liliana Machuca, who earns about $20 a month holding two jobs teaching literature.

Her face was covered in a white substance to protect herself from the nauseous effects of what she expects will be another day of dodging tear gas canisters. Although she doesn't expect change overnight, she said protesting is the only option the opposition has against an entrenched, increasingly repressive government.

"We're going to go on struggling", she said Wednesday, "because the one who tires, loses".

Maduro, addressing supporters at a much smaller but still large countermarch of mostly state workers, said he was "anxious" to see elections take place sometime "soon" and repeated his call for dialogue, something many in the opposition see as a stalling tactic.

An anti-government protesters throws a molotov bomb at security forces in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

In a televised statement made when he was seated with his government ministers on Tuesday evening, Maduro accused the US State Department of trying to promote a military intervention and "direct aggression".

The centre-right opposition has called for the military - a pillar of Maduro's power - to abandon him.

PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO, Venezuela (through interpreter): The time for combat has arrived, my fellow patriots.

Thousands of protesters clashed with riot police deployed to contain what the opposition vowed would be the "mother of all protests".

"I came to march to defend the country and defend the president who we voted for", she said.

He has also warned that an opposition government would slash social benefits like healthcare for the poor and subsidized food.

He says Venezuela's government is not allowing the opposition "to organize in ways that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people".

General Motors has stopped doing business in Venezuela after authorities took control of its only factory there in what GM called an illegal judicial seizure of its assets.

Maduro said he hopes to expand the number of civilians involved in the Bolivarian militias created by the late Hugo Chavez to 500,000, up from the current 100,000, and provide each member with a gun.


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