Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Dozens hurt in deadly Venezuela clashes

CARACAS: A woman was shot dead and dozens injured in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, in clashes between opposition supporters and pro-government forces. The military fired tear gas and water cannon amid rival demonstrations.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called for those responsible for the death of a 27-year-old woman to be found. He also urged public employees to go on strike on Thursday, to try to force President Nicolás Maduro to stand down.

In January, Mr Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim leader, and he has been recognised by more than 50 countries including the US, UK and most Latin America nations. As the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, he invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing that Mr Maduro’s re-election last year was illegitimate.

But Mr Maduro – who is backed by Russia, China and the leaders of Venezuela’s military – has refused to cede power. The president dismissed suggestions he had been ready to flee the country and accused the US of directing an attempted coup. Those involved would be punished, he said.

On Wednesday, both pro- and anti-government supporters held demonstrations in Caracas that were initially peaceful. There were reports of gunfire in the city, and a local NGO, the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, said Jurubith Rausseo, 27, had been shot dead during a rally in the opposition stronghold of Altamira.

At least 46 people were injured in clashes between opposition supporters and the security forces. On Tuesday, Mr Guaidó posted a video showing him with a number of men in military uniform. He said he had the support of “brave soldiers” in Caracas.

He urged Venezuelans to join them in the streets, and appeared alongside another opposition leader, Leopoldo López, who had been under house arrest after being found guilty of inciting violence during protests in 2014.

Spain’s government later said that Mr López and his family had sought safety in their embassy, but said the opposition figure has not claimed political asylum.

Supporters on both sides gathered around the city throughout Tuesday, and there were clashes between Mr Guaidó’s supporters and armed military vehicles. In a series of tweets (in Spanish), Mr Guaidó said the final phase of “Operation Liberty” had begun and it was the turn of public workers to join in.

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