Calls for calm in Venezuela over rising unrest

The state prosecutor's office says Orlando Medina, 23, died immediately from a gunshot to the head on a street in the town of El Tocuyo.

An expert on Venezuelan politics, with four books on the subject, the latest of which is International Mediation in Venezuela (with Francisco Diez, USIP press, 2011), she is now a Distinguished University Professor at Georgia State University, and former director of the Carter Center's Americas Program where she monitored Venezuelan elections and mediated conflicts in that country since 1998.

Most demonstrators rallied peacefully, but some masked protesters turned the rallies violent after they threw stones and clashed with police who fired back tear gas and rubber bullets.

Eleven people have also died during night-time looting.

The ruling Socialist Party accuses foes of seeking a violent coup with United States connivance, while the opposition says Maduro is a dictator repressing peaceful protest.

But while Maduro's camp lost its majority in the National Assembly when the opposition won a landslide in legislative elections in 2015, it retains a firm grip on the courts, electoral authorities and - crucially - the military. But protests are also fuelled by a crippling economic crisis in the oil-exporting nation of some 30 million people.

An anti-government protester stands in front of burning barricade on a highway in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 24, 2017.

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Following a familiar daily pattern, the demonstrations were largely peaceful until mid-afternoon, when scattered skirmishes broke out and the shooting incidents occurred. "They're the same as 2002", Socialist Party No. 2 Diosdado Cabello told the crowd, referring to a short-lived coup against Chavez that year. "Nicolas (Maduro) is not going".

The swell of protests is the most violent in economically struggling Venezuela since two months of anti-government demonstrations in 2014 that resulted in dozens of deaths.

After four weeks of protest, anti-government Venezuelans have settled in for a long standoff with President Nicolas Maduro. "It's crucial that we stay here all day".

According to reports, almost 1,300 people have been detained in clashes since a Supreme Court ruling that stripped congress of its powers. Currently, a presidential election is scheduled to take place in Venezuela next year.

According to Eurasia Group consultants, the demonstrations show that "the opposition is united around the strategy of street protests and is reinvigorated".

Trying to keep the pressure on Maduro, the opposition is seeking new strategies, such as a silent protest held on Saturday and Monday's "sit-ins".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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