Venezuelans Again Take to Streets as Death Toll Jumps to 36

Posted May 06, 2017

Venezuelans have been on the streets almost every day for a month to protest the Maduro administration and demanding immediate elections.

The clashes broke out after riot police blocked demonstrators from advancing toward government buildings in central Caracas, where Maduro addressed a rally of thousands of his supporters.

Opposition protests have often started peacefully but degenerated into violence when security forces block marchers and masked youths fight them with stones, Molotov cocktails and fireworks shot from pipes turned into homemade mortars.

A 33-year-old student leader of the Territorial University of Anzo√°tegui, city of Tigre, was murdered yesterday by a gunman who then escaped on a motorcyle, the prosecutor's office said yesterday. Lopez was the president of a university federation.

The student leader's death brought to at least 37 the number killed in Venezuela's political turmoil.

"This is a scam to deceive the Venezuelan people with a mechanism that is nothing more than a coup", said Julio Borges, National Assembly president, after calling Venezuelan for mass protests.

Maduro's opponents called for women to march on Saturday dressed in white, a traditional show of defiance against what they brand a repressive government.

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During a meeting with election officials on Wednesday, Maduro said a vote for the new assembly would take place in coming weeks. Hundreds also have been wounded - no small matter in a country with crippling medical shortages. And more than 1,000 have been arrested.

According to reports, at least one person who was stuck under the armored truck is critically injured. The opposition-led NGO, Foro Penal Venezolano, reports that nearly two thousand protesters have been detained since April 4th and 600 of those are still behind bars.

On Wednesday, Maduro appeared before the National Election Center (CNE) to formally demand the establishment of a "Constituents' Assembly", which would draft laws in lieu of the opposition-controlled National Assembly and create a new national constitution from scratch. "Since the government can not win elections, it wants to dismantle the system for holding them", opposition leader Henrique Capriles told the AFP news agency.

Emphasising that democracy "cannot be built to fit the needs of a particular government" and "involves listening to the voice of the majority", he added: 'No ideology can go beyond the common good'. Finally, we call on all sectors not to endorse actions that generate more violence and express our conviction that the time has come to finalize an inclusive national agreement that provides a lasting solution to the critical situation in Venezuela.

The South American nation is among India's biggest suppliers of crude oil.

The opposition, which blames Maduro for the crisis engulfing the nation, wants early elections and the release of jailed opposition politicians.