Venezuelans gear up for opposition march

20 April, 2017, 07:58 | Author: Valerie Burke

Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro called on Venezuelans to take to the streets on Wednesday for what they dubbed the "mother of all marches" against the embattled socialist leader.

The Metro de Caracas, Maduro's former employer before he went into politics, said it was shutting down the busiest half of the system in order to preserve installations, but it does so every time there is a big opposition demonstration.

Waving the country's red yellow and blue flags and shouting "No more dictatorship" and "Maduro out", tens of thousands of protesters converged from 26 different points spread across Caracas to attempt to march downtown to the Ombudsman's office.

Marching on a day marking the beginning of Venezuela's independence movement from Spain in 1810, protesters dressed mainly in white clogged freeways and main thoroughfares across metropolitan Caracas, the capital. But a hospital director confirmed the death of an 18-year-old student, Carlos Moreno, who was on his way to play soccer when shots were fired near groups of opposition and government supporters.

"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.

US President Donald Trump has publicly not said much about the crisis in Venezuela.

"We are going to bring disarmament and peace", Interior Minister Nestor Reverol told Reuters during one confiscation event.

In addition to Caracas, social media reported massive demonstrations in provincial cities, including Merida, Maracaibo, Valencia and San Cristobal.

Marches have repeatedly ended in clashes between demonstrators and security forces, with rock-throwing youths squaring off against tear-gas-lobbing security forces in confused melees that drag on well into the evening.

But pro-government marches no longer have the fervor or numbers of those of Maduro's predecessor. Critics say any elections since have been delayed because Maduro is afraid of the outcome.

President Nicolas Maduro was due to address his supporters on Wednesday. The authorities say they will not allow them into the area, where the rival rally will be held.

But a Supreme Court decision in March to assume the powers of the opposition-led Congress sparked a wave of protests that have not ebbed, even though the court has partly reversed the measure in the face of worldwide condemnation. "The armed forces must let Maduro's government know that the situation in Venezuela is unsustainable".

Late Tuesday, on national television, Maduro reasserted his earlier claims that the United States is behind opposition marches, saying the U.S. State Department had given the green light for a coup attempt. But the 2014 collapse in oil prices left the government unable to maintain a complex system of subsidies and price controls.

Regional elections due in December were indefinitely postponed and there is still no date for local polls due this year.

On Monday, 11 Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, called on Venezuela's government to respect the constitutional right to peaceful protest. In addition, a demonstration took place at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington.

"I will guarantee the permanent training of the militias, their permanent deployment, their ability to handle the system of weapons, so they could defend their neighborhoods, their territory, their state", Maduro said during a speech marking the seventh anniversary of the formation of the Bolivarian Militia.

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