Mon, May 15, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Venezuelans clog roads with cars, horses in protest

AFP, CARACAS

Demonstrators riding on horses take part in a nationwide protest in Caracas against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Venezuelans in cars and on motorcycles, bikes and even horseback clogged roads on Saturday and police fired tear gas at them in another day of protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Security forces also used tear gas to disperse protesters in the northern city of Valencia and soldiers blocked the procession from reaching its intended destination.

In the capital, Caracas, protesters’ goal was to fill 25km of a key highway leading to the coastal state of Vargas.

About two hours after the caravan got under way, police on motorcycles fired tear gas to block the procession. The road eventually cleared.

“You have to keep finding ways to protest,” said Rafael Galvis, 46, as he drove a truck carrying a dozen protesters waving the red, blue and yellow Venezuelan flag and banners with slogans criticizing Maduro.

“We are going to stay in the street, building a way out of the crisis,” opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara said as the Caracas rally got under way.

In the central state of Cojedes, groups of people riding horses joined the procession of protest.

Pro-government people rallied in downtown Caracas to show support for the proposed 500 member constituent assembly that would rewrite the constitution.

Venezuela is mired in an economic crisis that has caused shortages of food, medicine and other basics in the oil-rich country. Protesters blame Maduro.

A total of 38 people have died in street unrest since protests first broke out on April 1. Hundreds more have been injured.

Elected in 2013, Maduro, the handpicked successor of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is resisting pressure for an early vote, calling the crisis the result of a US-backed conspiracy.

His opponents have branded him a dictator.

Protesters also oppose his plans to elect an assembly — and do it sidestepping the country’s political parties — to overhaul the constitution, dismissing it as a way to put off elections.

Maduro stood by his plans in a speech on Saturday.

“I am just waiting for the day that the National Electoral Council sets the date for electing the national constituent assembly so people can come out and do justice with their votes,” Maduro said in a speech carried on state run TV.

He confirmed that at least half of the members would be chosen not by popular vote, but rather by social sectors like blue collar workers and farmers — which are heavily pro-government.

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