Tillerson: US concerned Venezuela not allowing opposition to be heard

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 20, 2017

The opposition in Venezuela organized what they called the "mother of all marches" today, as thousands poured into the streets to demand that the government hold elections, release political prisoners, reestablish judicial independence and the powers of the National Assembly, and allow sufficient humanitarian aid into the country.

The 17-year-old was shot by gunmen on motorbikes who also threw tear gas canisters into a crowd of protesters, Amadeo Leiva, head of the Clinicas Caracas Hospital which treated him, told AFP.

MCEVERS: I mean, these protests have been going on for three weeks now. The opposition sees the government measures as turning Venezuela into a almost full-blown dictatorship.

Riot police fired tear gas to force back stone-throwing demonstrators as hundreds of thousands of people fed up with food shortages and demanding elections joined protest marches in Caracas and several other cities.

"We are extremely concerned that Rosneft's control of a major U.S. energy supplier could pose a grave threat to American energy security", six senators wrote in an April 4 letter to the U.S. Treasury secretary.

"I heard shots and when I arrived she was on the ground".

"We have to end this dictatorship". "All these people made profiles on instagram and we started looking into what was happening. We're fed up. We want elections to get Maduro out, because he's destroyed this country", said protester Ingrid Chacon, a 54-year-old secretary.

That may be the case once more Wednesday, as the government has called on its supporters to pour into the streets in Maduro's defense.

Anti-Maduro protesters were prevented from reaching parts of the city, with water cannons and tear gas used in violent clashes.

At least five deaths have been blamed on the strong-armed response to protests that were triggered by the government-stacked Supreme Court's decision three weeks ago to strip the opposition-controlled congress of its last remaining powers after a year-long power battle. The court - stacked with appointees of Maduro and Chavez - reversed its position in the wake of domestic and global outcries about an attempted power grab.

Wednesday's rally was organized by the opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable.

Venezuela benefited for years from oil-fueled consumption and many poor citizens rose into the middle class.

Pressure on the leftist president has been mounting since 2014, as falling prices for Venezuela's crucial oil exports have aggravated an economic crisis.

The opposition counters that Maduro, deeply unpopular as Venezuelans grapple with triple-digit inflation and shortages of food and basic consumer goods, is seeking to stay in power indefinitely by barring opposition leaders from office and quashing independent state institutions.

"If the march is very large, it will mark a great advance for the opposition's strength", said Angel Alvarez, a political analyst at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas. Inflation is in triple digits in the OPEC member country.

"Those responsible for the criminal repression of peaceful democratic activity, for the undermining of democratic institutions and practices and for gross violations of human rights will be held individually accountable for their actions by the Venezuelan people and their institutions, as well as by the worldwide community", the U.S. State Department said in a statement Tuesday.

The statement, by spokesman Mark Toner, urged nonviolent demonstrations. "We only care what the people say".

Demonstrators clash with riot police during the so-called "mother of all marches" against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela Apr 19, 2017.

On Tuesday, the Venezuelan Penal Forum, a nongovernmental organization, said security forces in the country have carried out 538 arrests since early April. It also reported multiple instances of torture and cruelty to detainees.

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