April 20, 2017
At least three people have been killed in Venezuela in protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
A teenager in the capital Caracas and a woman in San Cristobal, near the Colombian border, were shot dead.
A national guardsman was killed south of the capital.
Tens of thousands of people rallied to demand new presidential elections and the release of jailed opposition politicians. Mr Maduro accused the opposition of attacking police.
He also accused them of looting shops, saying that more than 30 arrests had been made.
Supporters of the government held a rival rally in Caracas.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Henrique Capriles has called for further mass protests on Thursday.
Despite having the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela has suffered for several years from high inflation, rampant crime and a shortage of basic goods.
The protests taking place across the country were expected to be the biggest in three years, putting extra pressure on President Maduro to negotiate with the opposition and find a way of easing the country’s economic crisis.
Anti-government protesters have described it as Venezuela’s “second independence day”.
Elections are not due until late 2018, but the opposition says the country is on the verge of collapse. Inflation is expected to top 700% this year, the IMF says.
The latest crisis was triggered by last month’s Supreme Court decision to officially take over power from the opposition-controlled parliament.
The Supreme Court reversed its decision after three days, but it was too late to prevent a new wave of protests.
Venezuela has now seen weeks of clashes between demonstrators and police. The latest deaths bring the number killed to at least eight, with many more injured.
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Protesters demanding elections and a return to democratic rule jammed the streets of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities on Wednesday. National Guard troops and government-aligned militias beat crowds back with tear gas, rubber bullets and other weapons, and at least three people were killed, according to human rights groups and news reports.
President Nicolás Maduro defied international calls, including a plea from the American State Department, to allow peaceful assemblies and ordered his forces into the streets. Some demonstrators, wearing masks to protect themselves from tear gas, fought back with firebombs.
CreditCarlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
Still, despite the deaths in recent protests, now numbering seven, Wednesday’s rallies attracted thousands of people, the latest in a string of demonstrations against the increasingly autocratic rule of Mr. Maduro. Labeled by organizers “the mother of all protests,” it showed that a sustained movement in the streets against Mr. Maduro may now be forming.
Opposition leaders called for more rallies on Thursday.
Carlos Moreno, 17, was fatally shot by a pro-government gang on Wednesday, according to witnesses and local news reports.
He was attacked after hundreds of pro-government gang members arrived and surrounded protesters, throwing tear gas canisters, Arturo Ríos, a witness, said in an interview. Mr. Ríos said the group then began to open fire.
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