Venezuela opposition holds silent march to honour dead


The generous oil-financed welfare state created by late populist leader Hugo Chavez, Maduro's predecessor, has given way to a Soviet-style economy marked by consumer shortages, triple-digit inflation and snaking supermarket lines.

On Thursday evening, armed groups hired by the opposition attacked a maternal and children's hospital in the El Valle neighborhood with 54 children inside, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said.

Six people were also injured in the escalating violence, the ministry said in a statement.

The total death toll from protests that have been held against the government of President Nicolas Maduro since April 4 now stands at over 20 people, according to local media reports.

The opposition contends rogue armed pro-government groups have been fomenting the violence that has swirled around protests.

The protests were further fuelled when the Government barred the opposition's best-known leader, two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, from holding public office.

Protests have been roiling Venezuela on an nearly daily basis since the pro-government Supreme Court stripped congress of its last powers three weeks ago, a decision later reversed amid a storm of worldwide rebuke.

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Saturday's protest, however, was to be a silent one out of respect for those who died. More pockets of violence erupted Friday night. "All of them have houses in Orlando (Florida), assets in the USA, apartments in NY, and yet they donate $500,000 from a country that is dying of hunger".

The chaos turned deadly when looters entered a bakery protected by an electric fence and tried to remove a refrigerator.

Earlier Friday, officials reported that one of the dead was Mervins Guitian.

The circumstances of the shooting were not immediately clear.

"People starting looting the businesses and yelling that they were hungry and that they want the government out", said Alvarado.

Opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara likened the march towards some of the city's more humble neighbourhoods as "crossing the Berlin wall". Sit-ins to block major highways are planned for Monday.

Ruling Socialist Party leaders describe the protesters as hoodlums who are damaging public property and disrupting public order to overthrow the government with the support of the Venezuela oligarchy and "imperialist" Washington.

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Venezuela's military historically has been the arbiter of political disputes and some in the opposition are trying to spur its leaders into action to resolve the current impasse.

The opposition is demanding elections to exit the crisis.

But the government hasn't backed down.

At least twenty people have died in Venezuela as the largest opposition protests the country has seen in several years grind the country to a halt.

However, the socialist government has accused ideological adversaries in the United States of supporting the protests.

As tensions mount, the government is using its almost-complete control of Venezuela's institutions to pursue its opponents.

"Protests will need to grow and persist over the coming weeks to force a political transition", Eurasia analyst Risa Grais-Targow said in a note on Thursday.

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