Death toll in Venezuela protests up to 36 with police death

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The local chamber of commerce said at least 70 stores have been raided since Tuesday. The student leader, a supporter of the government, was gunned down after leading a student assembly, with his assassin fleeing on a motorcycle. The report concluded he died after being hit by a ball bearing.

President Maduro succeeded Hugo Chavez, a popular but polarising leader who had introduced wide-ranging social welfare programmes and died in 2013.

Attorney general Luisa Ortega caused a surprise in March by breaking ranks with the government over the political crisis.

- Constitution, elections -In his latest crisis maneuver, Maduro on Wednesday launched procedures at the electoral council to elect a "constituent assembly" to draft a new constitution. "He was just fighting for a better country".

"Democracy can not be built to fit the needs of a particular government or otherwise it would cease to be a democracy". He added that the yet-to-be-created constituent body would decide the South American nation's destiny "for the next 50 years".

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Maduro has vaguely described the assembly as a path to "peace" and "national dialogue".

Presidential elections are scheduled for late 2018, but the opposition is calling for early polls.

"If there is a constitution that is the result of a minority imposing rules, the government will fall". It is entirely possible that the government aims to invite foreign investors to bid on parts of the state-owned oil industry, PDVSA. President Nicolas Maduro accuses the opposition of attempting a coup, and has responded with an initiative to rewrite the constitution.

But food shortages, lack of medical and basic supplies and soaring prices, with 720 percent inflation expected this year, have caused hardship and dissent throughout the country. Four out of five people now live in poverty, and masses are facing hunger.

Clashes between riot police officers and protesters are growing immensely violent.

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Maduro has the public backing of the military high command, which analysts say is key to resisting the protests.

"What happens if the National Guard (military police) says they are not going to continue the repression?"

The opposition said that skews the assembly in Maduro's favour.

However, senior opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Friday that 85 mid-ranking army officers have been detained for opposing moves to crack down on protesters.

The deputy president of the FCU-UCV, Alfredo Garcia, said at that meeting that "students have already been on the streets for more than 35 days", assuring "we will not abandon them". Leopoldo López, who was jailed on a long-term sentence after the last major spate of protests, felt compelled to release a "proof-of-life" video from his cell Wednesday, assuring "my family and my children that I am well". "The cathartic moment of regime change will be quickly repriced in the market", Conelius wrote. A group of bipartisan US legislators sent a letter to President Donald Trump Thursday urging him to apply new sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights violations and to push for the delivery of humanitarian relief. The legislation also would instruct the intelligence community to prepare a partly unclassified report on Venezuelan government officials' involvement in corruption and drug trafficking.

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On April 3, 2017, Canada co-sponsored an OAS resolution reiterating the call on Venezuela to restore constitutional order and respect for democratic rights, Freeland said.

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