Opponents of the Venezuelan government have promised to continue street protests aimed at forcing out President Nicolas Maduro.
The opposition warning came a day after at least two people were killed and hundreds arrested in Venezuela’s largest anti-government demonstrations in years.
Thousands of Venezuelans filled the main streets of the capital, Caracas, on Wednesday. Many demonstrated in support of the president. Many others protested against Maduro and socialist policies.
Security forces armed with tear gas were deployed in a neighborhood on the west side of Caracas. One teenager shot in the head near an anti-government protest died while doctors operated on him. Pro-government militias were blamed for his death, as well as the killing of a woman in the city of San Cristobal.
Venezuelan officials are investigating the events leading up to both deaths.
A National Guard soldier was reported killed during protests in Miranda state, near Caracas.
At least eight people have been killed since the political unrest started three weeks ago.
Wednesday’s protest fell on an important date for Venezuelans. On April 19, 1810, Venezuelans began their drive for independence from Spain.
In Washington, United States officials are worried the Venezuelan government is working to suppress the opposition.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “We are concerned that the government of Maduro is violating its own constitution and not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard, nor allowing them to organize in a way that expressed the views of the Venezuelan people.”
“We are concerned about that situation,” he added. “We’re watching it closely and working with others … to communicate those concerns to them.”
Tillerson spoke at the State Department on Wednesday.
In recent protests, security forces have fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons.
The demonstrations began after a Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling on March 30. The court said it would take away the legislative powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. However, the court overturned its position after national and international criticism about an attempt to seize power.
Opponents call for democratic customs
Maduro’s opponents gathered in Caracas on Wednesday to pressure his administration to respect the assembly’s autonomy. They also want the government to hold long-delayed elections, free political prisoners and restore other democratic customs.
The National Socialist Party has ruled Venezuela for 17 years. Economic pressures have grown in recent years. The price of oil, Venezuela’s chief export, began falling in 2014. Venezuelans also face severe shortages of food, medicine and basic goods.
In related news, the American car manufacturer General Motors has stopped doing business in Venezuela after the government took control of its only factory in the country.
In a statement Thursday, the company said vehicles and other property were also seized, “causing irreparable damage to the company.”
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Alvaro Algarra wrote this story for VOA News with contributions from Nike Ching. Jonathan Evans adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in this Story
autonomy – n. the power or right of a country or group to govern itself
socialist – adj. of or related to a system in which there is no private property
tear gas – n. a liquid or gaseous substance that is used mainly to break up protests; the substance causes an allergic reaction in the body
allow – v. to permit; to let
view – n. the act of seeing or watching something; a pictorial image