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Venezuelan protests against Maduro leave two students dead

21 April 2017, 01:27 | Taylor George

Venezuelan protests against Maduro leave two students dead

Demonstrators clash with riot police during the so-called mother of all marches against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Wednesday

Security forces used tear gas to disperse the anti-government demonstrators who had gathered in the hundreds of thousands in Caracas for a protest dubbed the "mother of all marches".

Anti-government protesters have described it as Venezuela's "second independence day" and pictures showing campaigners wading through rivers in Caracas have emerged on social media.

April 19 marks four years since Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's six-year term began-an anniversary thousands of Venezuelans are marking with massive protests throughout the country. He was shot in the head, they said, and three security officials said he later died in a clinic after undergoing surgery.

"Those responsible for the criminal repression of peaceful democratic activity, for the undermining of democratic institutions and practices, and for gross violations of human rights, will be held individually accountable for their actions by the Venezuelan people and their institutions, as well as by the global community", the U.S. State Department said in a statement Tuesday.

On Tuesday, 11 Latin American nations on Tuesday asked Venezuela to hold elections to overcome the crisis. "They don't have anything else to lose", Beatrice Alavera said. On Wednesday alone, more than 500 protesters were arrested nationwide, according to Penal Forum, a local NGO that provides legal assistance to detainees.

Maduro's opposition is also demanding new elections, which were indefinitely postponed a year ago - mere months after Maduro also canceled a recall referendum that could have ousted him from power.

The government was also widely condemned for disqualifying opposition leader Henrique Capriles from running for office for 15 years, meaning that he will be ineligible to challenge Maduro for the presidency in elections due to be held next year.

Opposition demonstrators clash with riot police officers during a protest against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the capital, Caracas.

Venezuelans have for years been furious about a collapsing economy in which basic food products are a struggle to obtain and triple-digit inflation is steadily eroding consumer spending power.

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Some unhappy Venezuelans also steer clear of protests, fearful of violence, cynical that marches can bring about change, or too busy looking for food amid the recession.

The opposition called for another protest on Thursday, raising the spectre of prolonged disruption in Venezuela.

Authorities say a second protester has been killed in anti-government protests taking place across Venezuela. While analysts are getting anxious about what they see as increasingly distressed payments, some investors are betting on the country's "surreal" ability to pay and keep inking new deals with Caracas. The opposition has repeatedly accused the government of sending groups of armed thugs to attack protesters.

"I came to march to defend the country and defend the president who we voted for", she said.

The center-right opposition has called for the military - a pillar of Maduro s power - to abandon him.

New administrations in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru notably started speaking up more about Venezuela in the past year, in particular calling for the government to restore democratic order and hold regional elections.

Even while accusing the USA of trying to overthrow him, Maduro has been careful not to antagonize Trump. Analysts say there is less likelihood of a putsch against Maduro because Chavez launched a broad purge of the armed forces following his brief ouster.

Foreign governments are also warning about the increasingly bellicose rhetoric and repressive stance of the government.



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