Woman march in Venezuelan capital against socialist govt

CARACAS – Thousands of Venezuelan women opposed to the Nicolas Maduro government marched on Saturday in Caracas and in other cities around the country against the repression which, they said, has been imposed by state security forces during the wave of protests that began in the Caribbean nation last April 1.

President Maduro called for a National Constituent Assembly with the goal of easing the ongoing political tensions and supporting dialogue with the opposition.

Supporters of Venezuela's jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez held a late-night vigil in Caracas.

Police and soldiers initially prevented it from reaching the interior ministry.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles had earlier termed the situation in the Latin American country as the worst so far and said 80% of Venezuelans wanted change.

The incident took place on May 3 in the Caracas neighborhood of Altamira, when protesters chased riot police with sticks and stones, and authorities fired tear gas into the crowd, NBC News reports.

The death toll from Venezuela's continuing nationwide protests against President Nicolás Maduro has risen to at least 37, Reuters reported on Saturday.

The latest fatality, that of a 22-year-old man, occurred during looting in impoverished Venezuelan cities that have been hardest hit by a worsening economic crisis. In Valencia, where he died, some areas looked like disaster zones with bars on shop windows bent and windows broken. That attempt was quickly walked back - but not before it catalyzed an opposition that had already been simmering over rampant food shortages and indefinitely postponed elections.

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Meanwhile video posted on social media purportedly showed the pulling down of a small statue of Hugo Chavez in the western town of Rosario de Perija.

"This march is against opposition terrorism, they are destroying everything", said cook Fredesvilda Paulino, 54, at a pro-government rally also in Caracas on Saturday where red-shirted women waved pro-Maduro flags and banners.

Highlighting vandalism and violence by young masked protesters, Maduro says opponents are seeking a coup with U.S. support and harbour "terrorists" and "murderers" in their ranks.

The crackdown by security forces is the bloodiest since Lopez led weeks of protests in 2014, for which he was jailed and later sentenced to almost 14 years for what are widely seen as trumped-up charges of inciting violence.

The opposition, which won parliamentary elections at the end of 2015, is demanding a presidential election and for Maduro, whom they accuse of trying to create a dictatorship, to step down.

She called for him to listen to his people and urged the immediate release of "political prisoners", including Lopez who has been "held on trumped up charges by the government since 2014". "We are particularly concerned that the government is failing to provide basic food and medical needs to the Venezuelan people".

This week Maduro called for an assembly to rewrite Venezuela's constitution. The White House said the two agreed there's a strong need to bring the crisis to a "quick and peaceful conclusion".

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  • Jack Mann