Fri, May 05, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Venezuela students to lead protests as death toll hits 32

AFP, CARACAS

University students were yesterday to lead a fresh round of marches against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, one day after police fired tear gas and protesters hurled Molotov cocktails in rallies against his plan to rewrite the constitution.

Violence erupted in the latest of more than a month of clashes that prosecutors say have now killed 32 people in the oil-rich nation stricken by shortages of food, medicine and other basics.

Government forces used tear gas and water cannons against demonstrators marching along a highway in east Caracas, the Venezuelan Prosecutor General’s office said.

Protesters fought back with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

More than 300 people were injured in Wednesday’s unrest, officials said.

The latest fatality was that of an 18-year-old man struck by a projectile.

Looting broke out for a second straight night in the northern city of Valencia.

In Caracas, at least one protester caught fire when other demonstrators set ablaze a military motorcycle. Another was struck by an armored car.

The clashes broke out after riot police blocked demonstrators from advancing toward government buildings in central Caracas, where Maduro addressed a rally of thousands of his supporters.

The opposition accuses the elected leftist president of maneuvering to strengthen his grip on power. He has for months been resisting calls for a vote on removing him from office as the country staggers under food shortages, a near-crippled state-run economy and one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

Simon Bolivar University student leader Daniel Ascanio told reporters that students would march from campuses around the country to demand “democracy and freedom.”

“We will be joined by unions, homemakers and lawmakers. All sectors of society will mobilize to send a message to Maduro,” Ascanio said.

Clouds of gray smoke from tear gas canisters filled the air on Wednesday as police with riot shields and trucks advanced along the highway in eastern Caracas.

Protesters were most recently enraged by the socialist president’s launching of procedures by the Venezuelan National Electoral Council to elect a body to draw up a new constitution.

Private polls indicated that more than 70 percent of those interviewed do not support Maduro, chosen in 2013 to succeed former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Maduro said the constitutional reform body would not include political parties with seats in the opposition-controlled Venezuelan National Assembly, but representatives of social groups traditionally loyal to him.

As the unrest played out in the streets, powerful pro-Maduro Venezuelan Legislator Diosdado Cabello went on TV to show footage of a jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, to show he was alive and to counter rumors he had died in prison.

Maduro’s center-right opponents and some international powers said that the move on the constitution is an attempt to dodge local elections this year and a presidential poll set for late next year.

“It is a fraud by Maduro’s side,” said Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles, the president’s most prominent opponent.

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