Two killed in protests in Venezuela; UN diplomat severs ties
July 21 2017 10:16 AM
Demonstrators clash with riot security forces during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan P
Demonstrators clash with riot security forces during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela. Reuters

dpa/Caracas

At least two people were confirmed dead and several others were injured as a 24-hour general strike called by the opposition took hold in crisis-ridden Venezuela on Thursday.

A 24-year-old was shot dead at a demonstration in Los Teques, the capital of Miranda state, the public prosecutor's office said. Three other people were said to be injured.
Another man, identified as a 23-year-old, was killed in the central state of Carabobo, while at least ten others suffered gunshot wounds. Opposition sources spoke of a total of four deaths, of which two have been confirmed so far.
The general strike in Venezuela is aimed at putting pressure on embattled Socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
The most recent deaths brought the number of people killed during months of protests in crisis-ridden Venezuela to 97.
"Another young Venezuelan murdered by the sick ambition and madness of power of @nicolasmaduro," opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Twitter.
The streets of the capital Caracas were deserted in parts due to the strike as workers stayed home and businesses were shuttered. The government issued calls for people to come to work.
In western Caracas, police and the national guard used pellets and tear gas to disperse the protesters late Thursday and to dismantle makeshift barricades of tree trunks, trash and debris.
Meanwhile, a senior Venezuelan UN diplomat publicly severed ties with Maduro's government.
The day of unrest and the defection were further signs of the growing crisis in Venezuela, which is suffering its worst economic crisis, with shortages of basic goods and high inflation.
The opposition called the strike a day after Venezuelans taking part in a nonbinding referendum voted overwhelmingly against Maduro's planned constitutional changes.
The UN diplomat, Isaias Medina, resigned from his post to "fight impunity" in his home country, he said in the video, which appeared to be filmed at the United Nations in New York.
It is "hypocritical" for Venezuela to advocate for human rights at the UN when "we are violating human rights every day," Medina said.
Venezuela's ambassador to the UN, Rafael Ramirez, said Medina was fired by the mission.
"We have immediately relieved him of his duties. He doesn't represent us. He has acted dishonestly," Ramirez tweeted.
The goal of the general strike was to prevent the election of a 545-member constituent assembly on July 30 and plans to rewrite the South American country's constitution to assure a majority for the Socialists, who have ruled the country since 1999.
The 24-hour general strike was initiated by a coalition of about 20 opposition parties. Opposition leader Freddy Guevara asked that the strike be massive and peaceful.
The opposition coalition United Democracy Roundtable (MUD) won control of the country's legislature in December 2015. Since then they have been calling for a referendum to remove Maduro and hold new elections.
In the referendum, 98.4 per cent of 7.1 million voters who cast ballots opposed Maduro's plans. The turnout represented about one-third of the country's electorate.
More than 90 people have been killed in anti-government protests in the oil-rich country since April and about 4,500 have been arrested.
Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), also criticized the planned constitutional reform and warned of a civil war.
"We are very afraid that the horror will develop into a bloodbath," he said in a report on Venezuela issued Wednesday.



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