2 die in mass protest against Venezuela government


They were met Wednesday by a curtain of tear gas and rubber bullets as they attempted to march to downtown Caracas. Dozens had to slide down a concrete embankment and into the Guaire River to escape the noxious fumes. Instead of joining the marches, she said, he was on the way to play soccer.

The 23-year-old woman identified as Paola Ramirez was killed by gunfire from pro-government groups circling protesters in the western city of San Cristobal, the town's mayor told The Associated Press.

At least five deaths and hundreds of arrests have been blamed on the response to paralyzing protests that were triggered by the Supreme Court's shock decision three weeks ago to strip the opposition-controlled legislature of its last remaining powers.

On Tuesday, 11 Latin American nations on Tuesday asked Venezuela to hold elections to overcome the crisis.

JULIO BORGES, President, Venezuelan National Assembly (through interpreter): They haven't done anything.

That move was later reversed, but it had the added effect of energising Venezuela's fractious opposition, which had been struggling to channel growing anger against Maduro over widespread food shortages and triple-digit inflation. They've called for another day of protests Thursday.

"If today we were millions, tomorrow even more of us need to come out", said opposition governor and two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who last week was barred from running for office for 15 years.

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Mr Maduro's opponents are pushing for his removal through early elections and the release of scores of political prisoners.

The thousands that gathered are against the "coup d'etat promoted by the Maduro government".

Maduro, addressing supporters at a large countermarch, seemed open to some sort of electoral showdown.

The opposition says Maduro made it clear to the world he was a dictator when the Supreme Court in late March assumed the functions of the opposition-led Congress. Moreno was shot in the head, they said.

"The aim of these protests is to generate a definitive change of government and institutions", protester Eduard Grosse told Al Jazeera.

"There was an exchange of words, the situation got complicated and, well, they shot the guy", said Arhiam Cano, a graphic designer who witnessed the event, in a telephone interview. "We'll see who tires out first".

Maduro critics say his supporters are holding rival rallies, with state TV showing images of red-clad government loyalists marching "to defend the homeland".

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"The opposition is trying to provoke a conflict but they aren't going to achieve their goal", said Marquez, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the eyes of the late Hugo Chavez, a symbol of revolutionary zeal in Venezuela. The opposition blames the deaths on security forces and armed pro-government supporters seeking to spook protesters.

"The U.S. government, the State Department have given the green light, the approval for a coup process to intervene in Venezuela", said Maduro, citing a State Department communique issued Tuesday titled "Non-Violence and Accountability During Protests in Venezuela".

US President Donald Trump has not said much publicly about the crisis in Venezuela.

The protests are expected to be the biggest in three years, putting extra pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to negotiate with the opposition and find a way of easing the country's economic crisis.

Foreign governments are also warning about the increasingly bellicose rhetoric coming from the government.

Maduro said this week that he would increase the size of a citizen militia that supports the government to 500,000 members and give each cadet a gun.

In the past, the groups known as collectives have operated like shock troops firing on protesters as security forces stand by.

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