Thursday, April 20, 2017

Venezuelan protests against government leave two students dead



Two Venezuelan students died on April 19, after being shot during protests against unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro, increasing turmoil in the volatile nation amid a brutal economic crisis. In the opposition hotbed of San Cristobal near the Colombia border, university student Paola Ramirez died after being shot by armed men on motorbikes as she was leaving the protest, relatives and witnesses told Reuters.

Earlier in the day in Caracas, Carlos Moreno, 18, a student, was on his way to play soccer and did not plan to take part in the demonstration when government supporters approached an opposition gathering and fired shots, according to witnesses and a family member. He was shot in the head, they said, and three security officials said he later died in a clinic after undergoing surgery.

Opposition supporters protested in Caracas and other cities in what they called "the mother of all marches," denouncing Maduro for eroding democracy and plunging the oil-rich economy into chaos. Crowds swelled to hundreds of thousands in the capital Caracas, including Maduro supporters who held a counter-demonstration in the capital at the urging of the president, and clashes were reported across the country during the most sustained protests since 2014.

Maduro says that beneath a peaceful facade, the protests are little more than opposition efforts to foment a coup to end socialism in Venezuela. The opposition says he has morphed into a dictator and accuses his government of using armed civilians to spread violence and fear. The duelling marches drew parallels to the clashes between pro and anti-government protesters in 2002 that triggered a brief coup against late President Hugo Chavez.

The deaths mean seven people have now been killed during protests in Venezuela this month. The opposition blames the deaths on security forces and alleged paramilitary groups. The opposition is demanding early elections, the freeing of jailed politicians, humanitarian aid, and respect for the autonomy of the opposition-led legislature.

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