Venezuela march de­mands elec­tion

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Marchers hit the Cara­cas streets Satur­day to de­mand elec­tions and the re­lease of jailed Venezue­lan op­po­si­tion ac­tivists in­clud­ing fig­ure­head Leopoldo Lopez, who has been on hunger strike since May 24.

The crowd of about 500 was called out by Lopez’s wife, Lil­ian Tin­tori, for a march that ended in Jose Marti square in the cap­i­tal.

“If you want Leopoldo to stop his hunger strike, set a date for the elec­tions,” Tin­tori told the crowd, in re­marks aimed at so­cial­ist Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro.

Venezuela is due to hold midterm elec­tions in 2015, but no date has been set. Maduro has in­sisted the vote will go ahead as it is re­quired.

His party has June 28.

Crit­ics charge that he is try­ing to de­lay un­til the last pos­si­ble minute to un­der­cut the op­po­si­tion.

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Lopez, who leads the Vol­un­tad Pop­u­lar (Will of the Peo­ple) party, went on his hunger strike de­mand­ing that the elec­tion date be set and that in­ter­na­tional mon­i­tors be in place.

Lopez, 44, has been held at a mil­i­tary prison out­side Cara­cas since he was ar­rested in Fe­bru­ary 2014 on charges of in­cit­ing the vi­o­lence that killed 43 peo­ple and wounded hun­dreds as Venezue­lans protested against Maduro’s gov­ern­ment last year.

Maduro has re­jected crit­i­cism of his hard­line ap­proach to­wards his op­po­nents and blamed the coun­try’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing econ­omy on the United States.

The OPEC mem­ber’s econ­omy is reel­ing from a col­lapse in crude oil prices, soar­ing in­fla­tion, a short­fall of hard cur­rency and chronic short­ages of ba­sic goods.

Venezuela is also the world’s sec­ond dead­li­est coun­try in the world, ac­cord­ing to U.N. data.

AP

Pa­tri­cia Ce­bal­los, wife of jailed op­po­si­tion mayor of San Cris­to­bal, pushes hunger striker Rafael del Rosario, a Cha­cao coun­cil­man, in a wheel­chair, dur­ing an anti-gov­ern­ment march in Cara­cas, Venezuela, Satur­day, June 20.

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