At least three dead in Venezuela anti-government protests

An anti-government march organizers called the "mother of all protests" in Venezuela turned deadly Wednesday when at least three people were killed, including a national guardsman.

The oil-rich but crisis-shaken South American nation has been convulsed by escalating protests over the last few weeks amid a punishing recession and accusations that President Nicolas Maduro has seized dictatorial powers. Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro called on Venezuelans to take to the streets on Wednesday for what they dubbed the "mother of all marches" against the embattled socialist leader.

Government supporters held opposing demonstration as backers dressed in red t-shirts and carried posters of popular late President Hugo Chavez, who governed from 1999 to 2013.

Maduro says the subsidiary of Spain's Telefonica company "sent millions of messages to users every two hours" in support of Wednesday's big anti-government protests, which left at least three people dead. The Penal Forum of Venezuela confirmed two deaths although the number could be as high as six, as other people have been reported deceased in social media.

Local journalist Cody Weddle said the city was "really militarised" as security forces prevented protesters from reaching downtown.

Opposition members set up a barricade during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

"This is a government in the final phase of how these regimes behave", one opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, said.

The two killings bring to seven the death toll since protests began three weeks ago over the Supreme Court's decision to strip the opposition-controlled congress of its last remaining powers, a move that was later reversed but not before enraging the opposition and causing a storm of global criticism. He was shot in the head in Caracas.

But the throngs of protesters weren't well-payed USA plants but Venezuelan citizens braving tear gas to protest a government that has overseen hyperinflation, food and medicine scarcity, years of recession, continually delayed elections, alleged vice presidential drug trafficking, and a president who seems unwilling or unable to respond to any of the above.

The elections council, which is sympathetic to the government, has delayed votes for state governors that were supposed to take place past year.

The Maduro government quickly undid last month's court ruling in a move to placate protesters.

As the economy worsened, the centre right-led Opposition won control of the legislature in elections in December 2015.

Tens of thousands of angry protesters took to the streets in 26 different points in attempt to march to the Ombudsman's office.

'They've got the right to march but marching isn't burning stuff, throwing rocks, ' said Jahil Marcano, a 48-year-old construction worker who had joined the pro-government rally.

He said the opposition did not only stage protests in the east of the city, as it normally does, but also in typically pro-government western areas.

A demonstrator throws stones during anti-government protests in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Protesters claim that Maduro is attempting to move the country away from democracy towards a dictatorship.

"This is like a chess game and each side is moving whatever pieces they can". Critics say elections have been delayed because Maduro is afraid of the outcome.

Venezuelans have struggled for years with food and medical shortages, and-more recently-skyrocketing prices on all types of goods, as hyperinflation wipes out salaries and the value of the currency, the bolivar.

"I participate in these protests, out of a sense of responsibility for being Venezuelan".

  • Leroy Wright