PDVSA Two Venezuelan students and a National Guard sergeant died on Wednesday after being shot during protests against unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro, increasing turmoil in the volatile nation amid a devastating economic crisis.
Opposition supporters protested in Caracas and other cities in what they called “the mother of all marches,” denouncing Maduro for eroding democracy and plunging the oil-rich economy into chaos.
Crowds swelled to hundreds of thousands, including Maduro supporters who held a counter-demonstration in the capital at the urging of the president, and clashes were reported across the country during the most sustained protests since 2014.
Maduro says that beneath a peaceful facade, the protests are little more than opposition efforts to foment a coup to end socialism in Venezuela. The opposition says he has morphed into a dictator and accuses his government of using armed civilians to spread violence and fear.
The deaths mean eight people have now been killed during protests in Venezuela this month. The opposition blames the deaths on security forces and alleged paramilitary groups. Over 400 people were arrested during protests on Wednesday, rights group Penal Forum said.
The opposition called for another protest on Thursday, raising the specter of prolonged disruption in Venezuela.
“Same place, same time,” said opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Wednesday night. “If we were millions today, tomorrow we’ll be more.”
Wednesday’s dueling marches drew parallels to the clashes between pro and anti-government protesters in 2002 that triggered a brief coup against late President Hugo Chavez.
Carlos Moreno, 18, a student, was leaving his home to play soccer in Caracas when armed government supporters approached a nearby opposition gathering and fired shots, according to witnesses. He was shot in the head, they said, and three security officials said he later died in a clinic after undergoing surgery.
Later on Wednesday in the opposition hotbed of San Cristobal near the Colombia border, university student Paola Ramirez died after being shot by men pursuing her and her boyfriend, according to relatives and witnesses.
“We were on a motorbike and they were following us, shooting,” her boyfriend told Reuters. “I left her on a block where she was going to find her sister and I went to hide the bike. I heard shots and when I arrived she was on the ground. I tried to protect her as much as I could,” he added, sobbing in front of her body.
The public prosecutor’s office said it was investigating both cases.
The opposition attributed both deaths to groups known as “colectivos,” armed government supporters who are frequently accused of involvement in confrontations during protests.
There are few clear ways of identifying colectivos, who call themselves community groups but whom the opposition accuses of being violent paramilitary wings of the ruling Socialist Party.
A National Guard sergeant was killed by a sniper during “violent protests” in Miranda state and a colonel was injured, the human rights ombudsman Tarek Saab tweeted on Wednesday night.
Waving the country’s red, yellow and blue flags and shouting “No more dictatorship” and “Maduro out,” demonstrators clogged a stretch of the main highway in Caracas. Troops fired tear gas in Caracas neighborhoods, San Cristobal, the depressed industrial city of Puerto Ordaz, and the arid northern city of Punto Fijo.
“We have to protest because this country is dying of hunger said Alexis Mendoza, a 53-year-old administrator marching in the Caracas neighborhood of El Paraiso. “There are a lot of people in the opposition and they are full of courage.”
The march followed a fortnight of violent protests triggered by a Supreme Court decision in March to assume the powers of the opposition-led Congress – which it quickly reversed under international pressure.
The court’s move nonetheless fueled long-simmering anger over the ruling Socialist Party’s handling of the economy. The OPEC country suffers from Soviet-style shortages of food and medicines and triple-digit inflation.
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The opposition is demanding early elections, the freeing of jailed politicians, humanitarian aid, and respect for the autonomy of the opposition-led legislature.
The marchers gathered at more than two dozen points around Caracas, although some were stalled by authorities closing around 20 subway stops. Protesters had hoped to converge on the office of the state ombudsman, but as in previous attempts they were blocked by the National Guard. The protests trailed off with youths throwing rocks squaring off against security forces spraying tear gas.Weather
MADURO SAYS “ANTI-CHRISTS” DEFEATEDSource Reuters
Venezuelan protests against government leave three dead
Militants of the opposition Marabina, decided to protest this Wednesday, June 21, in front of the Miranda tower, a building of the state oil company PDVSA, located in Padilla Avenue in Maracaibo, in protest against the Constituent Assembly convened by President Nicolás Maduro, Without the approval of the people of Venezuela. ”
With banners, whistles and slogans, the Zulians came to the building to develop their protest in what they called “Plantón por Venezuela”. Juan Pablo Guanipa, deputy to the National Assembly for Zulia, present from 6:00 in the morning, said that “the struggle for Venezuela has no rest.”
“Yesterday we arrived from Caracas after participating in the great capture of the capital and today we continue fighting here in Zulia, because this fight is for everyone, this fight has no time, date or rest. We have to defend the Constitution and we must do it in a peaceful but forceful way. This is also a way of rejecting how this disastrous government ended everything, even with PDVSA, which was once one of the most important oil companies in the world. Today is simply a company full of debts, “he said.
Police officers cordon off the area, to protect the security of demonstrators and vehicles that circulate near the Miranda building, which is causing delays in the transit of the avenue La Limpia and alternative routes.
Groups of protesters blocked the accesses of the ring road One to La Limpia by placing barricades in each one of them. The collapse of automotive traffic in the surroundings was not long in coming and the chaos of the road reigns on the alternate roads of the area.
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Militantes de la oposición marabina, decidieron plantarse este miércoles 21 de junio, frente a la torre Miranda, edificio de la estatal petrolera PDVSA, ubicado en la Avenida Padilla de Maracaibo, en señal de protesta contra la Constituyente convocada por el presidente Nicolás Maduro, “sin la aprobación del pueblo de Venezuela”.
Con pancartas, pitos y consignas, los zulianos llegaron a la edificación para desarrollar su protesta en lo que denominaron “Plantón por Venezuela”. Juan Pablo Guanipa, diputado a la Asamblea Nacional por el Zulia, presente desde las 6:00 de la mañana, aseguró que “la lucha por Venezuela no tiene descanso”.
“Ayer llegamos de Caracas luego de participar en la gran toma de la capital y hoy seguimos luchando aquí en el Zulia, porque esta lucha es de todos, esta lucha no tiene hora, fecha o descanso. Tenemos que defender la Constitución y hay que hacerlo de manera pacífica pero contundente. Además esta es una manera de rechazar cómo este gobierno nefasto acabó con todo, hasta con PDVSA, que antes era una de las compañías petroleras más importantes del mundo. Hoy simplemente es una empresa llena de deudas”, dijo.
Efectivos policiales acordonan la zona, para reguardar la seguridad de los manifestantes y los vehículos que circulan cerca del edificio Miranda, lo que está causando retrasos en al transito de la avenida La Limpia y vías alternas.
Grupos de manifestantes trancaron los accesos de la autopista Circunvalación Uno a La Limpia colocando barricadas en cada uno de ellos. El colapso de transito automotor por los alrededores no se hizo esperar y el caos vial reina en las vías alternas de la zona.
Noticia en desarrollo…Source Noticias Venezuela