Venezuelans block roads to protest Maduro's plans

2017-05-02 22:29
(Fernando Llano, AP)

(Fernando Llano, AP)

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Caracas - Caracas residents blocked streets with trash bags, broken concrete and twisted metal on Tuesday to protest the socialist president's bid to rewrite the constitution amid a deepening political crisis.

Increasingly embattled President Nicolas Maduro signed a decree on Monday to begin the process of rewriting the country's charter. Opposition leaders immediately cried foul, calling the planned constitutional assembly a ploy to put off regional elections scheduled for this year and a presidential election that was to be held in 2018.

Carry out a coup

Polling has suggested the socialists would lose both those elections badly at a time of widespread anger over triple-digit inflation and shortages of food and other goods.

Speaking hours after yet another big anti-government march ended in rock throwing by some protesters and tear gas from police, Maduro said a new constitution was needed to restore peace and stop the opposition from trying to carry out a coup.

"This will be a citizens' assembly made up of workers," the president said. "The day has come brothers. Don't fail me now. Don't fail (Hugo) Chavez and don't fail your motherland."

"I am no Mussolini", he added.

The president was vague in a televised speech about how members of the constitutional assembly would be chosen. He hinted some would selected by voters, but many observers expect the government to give itself the power to pick a majority of delegates.

Overthrow him

At least 29 people have died in the unrest of the past month and hundreds have been injured. Opposition lawmaker Jose Olivares was hit in the head with a tear gas canister on Monday and was led away with blood streaming down his face.

The unrest began in reaction to an attempt to nullify the opposition controlled-congress, but has become a vehicle for people to vent their fury at Venezuela's economic problems and violent crime. Maduro blames the economy's troubles on sabotage by his opponents and accuses them of conspiring to overthrow him.

Read more on:    nicolas maduro  |  venezuela

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