Saturday, 27 May, 2017

Venezuelans gear up for major march against Maduro

At least five people have been killed in recent protests against Venezuela's socialist government.
   
 

  Enlarge  Caption At least five people have been killed in recent protests against Venezuela's socialist government. Enlarge Caption
Elaine Woods | 20 April, 2017, 09:36

The opposition has accused police of repression and the government of sending groups of armed thugs to beat up protesters. He warned supporters that they would have to use all their political tools to keep at bay what he said were the "fascist" opponents of the socialist administration.

Later, in the opposition hotbed of San Cristobal near the Colombia border, university student Paola Ramirez died after being shot by armed men on motorbikes as she was leaving the protest, according to Mayor Patricia Gutierrez. There were no other details immediately available. On Wednesday alone more than 500 protesters were arrested nationwide, according to Penal Forum, a local NGO that provides legal assistance to detainees.

"The whole of Caracas will be held by the revolutionary forces", said lawmaker Diosdado Cabello, one of Maduro's most powerful allies.

Tens of thousands of angry protesters converged from 26 different points spread across the capital to attempt to march downtown to the ombudsman's office.

Rocks and petrol bombs from protesters are being met with rubber bullets and tear gas by authorities across the country.

Venezuela has been hit by violent demonstrations sparked by the Supreme Court's ruling to annul the legislature.

MARGARET WARNER: The oil-rich nation is also mired in an economic crisis, with skyrocketing, triple-digit inflation, rampant crime and food shortages.

Demonstrators want new elections and the release of opposition politicians.

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.

Opposition marchers included Liliana Machuca, who earns about $20 a month holding two jobs teaching literature.

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Liliana Machuca, a teacher in Caracas told the AP she believes protesting is her only option after all the "abuses" she says have been committed by the government. "We'll see who tires out first".

At an opposition gathering in western Caracas, José Rafael Rojas, 60, said he had taken a day off from work to join Wednesday's march.

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. 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". On Monday 11 Latin American countries, including Mercosur and Mexico, called on Venezuela's government to respect the constitutional right to peaceful protest.

"Maduro also called in a military plan, so there's military in the streets in Caracas".

"So everything is set for their to be violence today", he said.

In short, the opposition says Maduro has created a dictatorship in the last few years. Each time, they were turned back by riot police.

"It is the moment for the armed forces to demonstrate that they are with the constitution and with the people", said opposition congressional leader Julio Borges. He has also warned that an opposition government would slash social benefits like healthcare for the poor and subsidized food.

Maduro, in turn, has urged his supporters to defend the socialist "revolution" launched by his predecessor Hugo Chavez in 1999.

Prior to Wednesday, five people had been killed in clashes on the streets.

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, it is not at all clear that the sovereign people of Venezuela support the Maduro government.

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