Defying crackdown, Venezuelans stage new protest march
CARACAS — Venezuelan protesters planned a new march Wednesday against President Nicolas Maduro, defying his government despite the deaths of more than 25 people in an increasingly violent political crisis.
The opposition called on protesters to march on central Caracas, a pro-Maduro bastion where the seat of government is located.
Previous attempts to reach the city center have degenerated into clashes between riot police and stone-throwing protesters.
Twenty-six people have died so far this month in violence around the protests, including four minors, according to Attorney General Luisa Ortega.
Maduro put the figure at 29 deaths in a speech Tuesday evening, without giving details.
“Twenty-nine of our countrymen have been murdered and the right-wingers are to blame. The people are demanding justice,” he said.
The center-right opposition blames Maduro for severe shortages of food, medicine and other essentials in the oil-rich country.
Maduro, the heir of the leftist “Bolivarian revolution” launched by the late Hugo Chavez in 1999, says the shortages and the protests are part of a US-backed plot to topple him.
The crisis deepened late last month when the Supreme Court moved to seize power from the National Assembly, the only lever of state authority Maduro and his allies do not control.
The court partly backtracked after an international outcry. But the opposition was further galvanized when authorities banned senior opposition leader Henrique Capriles from politics.
In just under a month of unrest, more than 400 people have been injured, and nearly 1,300 arrested, the attorney general said.
That includes 14 arrested journalists, their union said Tuesday, condemning the figure as “alarming.”
More than 100 journalists have been assaulted while covering the protests, it added, accusing the national guard of “harassing, beating and intimidating” reporters.
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