At Least 42 Dead in Anti Government Protests in Venezuela

At least one person has died in renewed violence in Venezuela, as thousands of opponents of President Nicolas Maduro staged sit-ins and roadblocks across the country in a seventh week of anti-government rallies. Protesters on Tuesday set fire to a police station and police motorbikes in Palmira and opposition supporters continued to clash with riot security forces there.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that a 17-year-old boy and two men died after being shot during anti-government protests, bringing to 42 the number of people killed in six weeks. Authorities were also investigating a shooting in Carabobo that left two officers injured, one critically. In the state of Lara west of Caracas, investigators were dispatched after three people were run over by a vehicle at a protest.

The violence added to a mounting toll of bloodshed and chaos as Venezuela's opposition vows to step up near-daily demonstrations and Maduro shows no intention of conceding to opposition demands. Protesters are demanding elections, freedom for jailed activists, foreign aid to offset an economic crisis, and autonomy for the opposition-controlled legislature.

The European Union is pressing Venezuela's government and opposition groups to resume negotiations toward peacefully resolving the political crisis that has convulsed the country for almost two months.

Worldwide pressure on the troubled South American nation is continuing to increase, with the Organization of American States voting Monday to hold a rare foreign ministers' meeting later this month to discuss Venezuela's political crisis. Rather, in a statement released Monday, the global organization declared that "fundamental rights of the Venezuelan people must be respected, including the right to peacefully demonstrate". Maduro and top administration leaders contend the OAS is meddling in Venezuela's domestic affairs, infringing on its sovereignty and trying to remove the government from power. Others simply sat and held signs declaring their resistance.

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On Sunday, female members of social organizations, as well as artists, creators and leaders of the organized people's power, issued a communiqué in which they condemned the violation of the fundamental rights of children and adolescents by violent groups supported by the opposition who use them in vandalistic and terrorist acts.

The incident took place in central Barinas state, the birthplace of former president Hugo Chavez. Those killed are largely young men in their 20s and 30s, protesters or those who happened to be in nearby areas during clashes. In four of those cases, state or national police officers have been charged.

The center-right opposition blames elected socialist leader Maduro for an economic crisis that has caused severe shortages of food and medicine.

"In this light, the announcement to expand and further strengthen armed civilian groups is worrying as it can fuel further violence and does not contribute to a solution".

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