Sat, May 06, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Students, riot police clash in Venezuela

DEFIANCE IN WHITE:A women’s march is to take place in Caracas today, for which protesters have been asked to wear white in defiance of the ‘oppressive’ government

AFP, CARACAS

A student returns a tear gas canister fired by Venezuelan National Police at student protesters on Thursday outside the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas. Students held demonstrations across Caracas on Thursday as a two-month-old protest movement that shows no signs of letting up claimed more lives.

Photo: AP

A student leader was shot dead as protests raged on in the streets of Venezuela on Thursday in the latest spasm of anger aimed at removing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power.

Crowds of students clashed with riot police firing tear gas in the mounting crisis in the oil-rich country saddled with shortages of food, medicine and other basics.

Maduro’s opponents accuse him of trying to strengthen his grip on power and delay elections by launching legal proceedings to overhaul the constitution.

The latest toll provided by prosecutors said 35 people have been killed in just over a month of protests against Maduro, whose opponents blame him for Venezuela’s dire economic mess.

News of the latest deaths came as organizers announced a women’s march today.

Protesters at the women’s rally, to take place in downtown Caracas, were urged to wear white, a traditional show of defiance against what organizers have branded a repressive government.

The student leader killed was at a meeting in the northern state of Anzoategui when “one of those present approached him and shot him several times before fleeing on a motorbike,” the prosecutors’ office said in a statement.

It did not say whether the killing was directly linked to the protests.

The killing came amid high tension as students pushed on with a wave of street rallies.

Crowds of them marched in Caracas, some clashing with riot police who blocked their way and fired tear gas.

Hooded youths responded by throwing Molotov cocktails and stones.

The prosecutors said a policeman died from a gunshot wound during a protest on Wednesday in the western city of Carabobo.

In the northern industrial city of Valencia, protesters on Thursday looted stores, set fire to cars and clashed with police.

At least five people were injured, one of them seriously, news reports said.

The reports said people in Valencia had begun hoarding basic foodstuffs and barricading housing developments to keep looters out.

The local chamber of commerce said at least 70 stores have been raided since Tuesday.

The opposition wants a vote on removing Maduro from office. His term ends in early 2019, while the president, elected in 2013, says the crisis is a US-backed capitalist conspiracy.

The opposition and government have accused each other of fomenting violence.

“I don’t know how long the protests are going to last,” senior opposition leader Henrique Capriles said in an interview. “If we were being violent, if we were not being democratic, we would already have toppled the government.”

In his latest crisis maneuver, Maduro on Wednesday launched procedures at the electoral council to elect a “constituent assembly” to draft a new constitution.

“This is the path of peace and reconciliation for Venezuela,” he said on television on Thursday. “It is a complex battle, but no one will take our homeland from us.”

Private polls indicate that more than 70 percent of those interviewed do not support Maduro.

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

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

“Since the government cannot win elections, it wants to dismantle the system for holding them,” Capriles said.

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