Violence erupts in Venezuela during anti-Maduro protests

Red smoke wafts into the air as it rises next to tear gas fired by the Bolivarian National Police during a protest in Caracas Venezuela Saturday
Violence erupts in Venezuela during anti-Maduro protests
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13 April, 2017

Over the past two weeks, thousands of people have taken to the streets across Venezuela to denounce President Nicolás Maduro's government with rally cries of "No more dictatorship!"

"The existence of isolated acts of violence during protests can not justify a blank restriction of the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression or the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force against demonstrators", the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said Tuesday.

Nonetheless, the organization appeared to take aim at the national government in the communique for employing excessive "use of force" against the protesters. He said 134 people remain detained, eight of whom he said are considered political prisoners.

Most of the protesters are peaceful and say street action is their only option after authorities a year ago blocked a recall referendum to remove Maduro.

On Saturday, thousands demonstrated against a ban from politics imposed on opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Opposition leaders said police launched gas canisters at the entrace to a hospital, forcing the evacuation of an infant.

On Monday alone, more than 200 people were injured, according to opposition reports.

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His death comes on the heels of the killing of 19-year-old Jairo Ortiz on the outskirts of Caracas on Thursday in the area of an opposition protest.

While opposition leaders have insisted on peaceful protest, frustration built up over 17 years of polarizing socialist rule in Venezuela is running high on both sides. The prosecutor's office said in a statement it was investigating the incident.

But demonstrations had ebbed amid protester fatigue, until a Supreme Court decision in late March to assume the functions of the opposition-led congress sparked outcry.

Daniel Queliz became the second person to die within a week in street protests called by opponents who want to remove Maduro from office in the crisis-hit nation.

The secretary general of the Organisation of American States, Luis Almagro - a prominent critic of Maduro - also took his latest shot at the president.

The opposition is demanding a date for gubernatorial elections that were supposed to take place a year ago, as well as a timeline for future elections including the presidential vote, which is constitutionally mandated for 2018.

Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader who accuses foreign countries of "meddling", travelled to communist ally Cuba on Sunday for a meeting of the ALBA bloc, which includes Venezuela's leftist allies in Latin America including Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba.


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