Death toll rises as Venezuela strike enters second day
28 July, 2017, 00:14 | Author: Gregory Stephens
In addition, penalties will apply to several members of Venezuela's national guard, police and other security services, including Interior Minister Nestor Luis Reverol Torres, who was indicted a year ago by the Justice Department for his alleged role in an worldwide cocaine distribution conspiracy.
At least 106 people have died in anti-government unrest convulsing the South American country since April, when the opposition launched protests demanding free and fair elections to end almost two decades of socialist rule.
The Protesters' motivation was boosted at the beginning of May when Maduroannounced he would call up a constituent assembly to rewrite the country's constitution.
If the vote goes ahead and Maduro's Constituent Assembly comes into being, this will dissolve the last semblance of democracy in the country, says Shannon K O'Neil, a Latin America expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in NY. Overall, fewer people appeared to be heeding the shutdown than the millions who participated in a 24-hour strike last week when five people died in clashes.
The latest deaths raised to 106 the number of people killed since April 1.
A 30-year-old man was killed during clashes between protesters and security forces in the town of Ejida, in the western state of Merida, authorities said, bringing the death toll in nearly four months of protests to 102. "We are going to make a wonderful act of reaffirmation of peace with the Constituent Assembly, preparing for peace". Where does Maduro want to take the country?
Opposition leaders won a majority of seats in Venezuela's National Assembly in midterm elections in December 2015.
The hardening political struggle has deepened fears that months of street violence could worsen, perhaps even tip into open civil conflict.
Thousands of Venezuelans have fled into neighboring Colombia this week, while many of those who stayed behind believe ousting Maduro is their only hope.
Some 70 per cent of Venezuelans oppose the Constituent Assembly, according to polling firm Datanalisis.
"As President Trump has made clear, the United States will not ignore the Maduro regime's ongoing efforts to undermine democracy, freedom and the rule of law", US Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.
Thirteen countries in the 35-member Organization of American States (OAS), a regional political bloc - including the US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina - urged Maduro to suspend Sunday's election because it amounted to a "dismantling of democratic institutionality".
In an effort to get Mr Maduro to agree to negotiations, the bloc is threatening measures against Venezuela if it decides its government - whose membership of the organisation was suspended past year - is in violation of the Ushuaia Protocol, which commits all Mercosur members to democratic norms.
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