VENEZUELA STRIKE ERUPTS INTO VIOLENCE
Maduro vows to forge ahead with reshaping government despite protests CARACAS, VENEZUELA» A nationwide strike against plans to rewrite the constitution shut down much of the capital Thursday before erupting into sporadic violence that left at least two yo
A nationwide strike against plans to rewrite the constitution shuts down much of Venezuela’s capital before erupting into sporadic violence that leaves at least two young men dead.
President Nicolas Maduro pledged to forge ahead with reshaping Venezuela’s government despite the protests and a U.S. threat to levy economic sanctions if he continued. A coalition of opposition groups called what it described as a “great march” for Saturday, returning to a strategy of direct confrontation with the government after a week of alternative tactics such as organizing a nationwide protest vote against the constitutional rewrite.
In New York, a senior diplomat resigned from the Venezuelan delegation to the U.N. in what he called a protest of the Maduro’s administration’s widespread human rights violations.
U.N. Ambassador Rafael Ramirez said on Twitter that Minister Counselor Isaias Medina had acted dishonestly and been removed from his post.
In a video and a letter posted online, a man who identifies himself as Medina and says he was Venezuela’s representative to the General Assembly’s human rights committee announces his resignation and says he cannot be part of a government that attacks protesters, censors the media and detains political prisoners. The authenticity of the letter and video could not be independently confirmed, but the footage is consistent with prior photos of Medina.
Medina could not immediately be reached for comment.
The issue is certain to be raised when Venezuela’s foreign minister, Samuel Moncada, goes to U.N. headquarters in New York on Friday to meet U.N. SecretaryGeneral Antonio Guterres.
In Caracas, wealthier, pro-opposition neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city were shuttered and silent until early afternoon, when improvised blockades left them almost entirely cut them off from the rest of the city. Groups of masked young men set fire to a handful of blockades and hurled stones at riot police, who fired back tear gas.
The chief prosecutor’s office said 23year-old Andres Uzcategui was killed in a protest in the working-class neighborhood of La Isabelica in the central state of Carabobo and 24-year-old Ronney Eloy Tejera Soler was killed in the Los Teques neighborhood on Caracas’ outskirts. At least nine people were hurt in protests, the prosecutor’s office said. It offered no details about the circumstances of the killings.
The slaying drives the death toll over nearly four months of protests to at least 95.
A public transport strike appeared to have halted nearly all bus traffic, and thousands of private businesses defied government demands to stay open during the first major national strike since a 2002 stoppage that failed to topple Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez.
Maduro said on national television that he’ll press ahead with plans to rewrite the nation’s constitution and said that hundreds of Venezuela’s largest companies are functioning “at 100 percent” despite the strike. The claim could not be immediately confirmed.
In neighborhoods of western Caracas traditionally loyal to the ruling party, some stores were closed but bakeries, fruit stands and other shops were open and hundreds of people were in the streets, although foot and vehicle traffic were about half of what they would be on a normal weekday.
In the rest of the city, residents commented that the streets were emptier than on a typical Sunday.
The 24-hour strike was meant as an expression of national disapproval of Maduro’s plan to convene a constitutional assembly that would reshape the Venezuelan system to consolidate the ruling party’s power over the few institutions that remain outside its control. The opposition is boycotting the July 30 election to select members of the assembly.
“Definitively, we need a change,” said teacher Katherina Alvarez. “The main objective is for people to see how dissatisfied people are.”
Many of those who opted to work said they walked hours to get to their jobs, unable to find a bus or taxi.
Venezuelan demonstrators set fire to a small police station during an anti-government protest in Caracas. Sporadic violence broke out Thursday during a 24-hour nationwide strike.