Twelve People Killed in Venezuela in Overnight Violence

SocialPolitical      Violence Erupts in Venezuela as Citizens Protest Against President Maduro                   By Austin R. Ryan

SocialPolitical Violence Erupts in Venezuela as Citizens Protest Against President Maduro By Austin R. Ryan

A demonstrator stands in front of a Bolivarian National Guard armored vehicle blocking its way during anti-government protests in Caracas, Venezuela, on Wednesday, April 19.

They demand President Nicolas Maduro's government call general elections, free nearly 100 jailed opposition activists and respect the autonomy of the opposition-led Congress.

"I am here carrying this cross for the peace of all Venezuelans", he said beneath a punishing sun.

Opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara likened the march toward some of the city's more humble neighborhoods as "crossing the Berlin wall".

The government accuses the opposition of hiring armed agitators to sow violence, while the opposition says the government is repressing protesters and hiring thugs.

The protests were further fuelled when the Government barred the opposition's best-known leader, two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, from holding public office. But the initial ruling reinvigorated Venezuela's fractious opposition, which had been struggling to channel growing disgust with Maduro over widespread food shortages, triple-digit inflation and rampant crime.

Riot police firing tear gas fought running street battles in the east, west, and south of Caracas with demonstrators demanding the ouster of Maduro, witnesses quoted by AFP news agency said.

Protests began three weeks ago over the Supreme Court's decision to strip the opposition-controlled congress of its last remaining powers, a move that was later reversed but not before enraging the opposition and causing a storm of worldwide criticism.

In Washington on Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said America is "concerned that the government of Maduro is violating its own constitution and not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard". There's also a sit-in to block major highways planned for Monday.

Authorities seized a General Motors auto plant on Thursday, which led to the company stopping all operations in the country, putting over 2,500 employees out of work.

Video taken by locals showed residents throwing bottles and other objects out their windows at the gunmen in the streets below, shouting "murderers".

"The opposition's response to regional elections, which the National Electoral Council will probably call in the coming days, will be key to maintaining momentum in the streets".

But the government hasn't backed down.

"The hour of combat has arrived", Maduro said this week after ordering the military to mobilize in the face of the protests.

As tensions mount, the government is using its almost-complete control of Venezuela's institutions to pursue its opponents.

In a statement Friday, the Public Ministry said that the deaths occurred during demonstrations Thursday and Friday and that two teenagers, aged 15 and 16, were among the dead.

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