Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro jeered by crowd as unrest grows

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro jeered by crowd as unrest grows

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro jeered by crowd as unrest grows

An 87-year-old woman reportedly died inside her apartment in Caracas after inhaling tear gas thrown by police during street demonstrations Monday against the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Worldwide criticism of his government mounted in recent weeks after the Supreme Court moved to curb the powers of the opposition-majority legislature.

The streets of Caracas and several other Venezuelan cities have been the scene of running clashes in recent days, with police firing tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon at demonstrators hurling rocks and molotov cocktails.

"We urge demonstrators to express themselves non-violently and call on government security forces to protect peaceful protest, not prevent it", a U.S. State Department spokesman said Monday.

As the National Assembly decided its next steps, the government held a rally in Caracas to commemorate 15 years since the 2002 coup that briefly ousted Hugo Chavez, Maduro's predecessor who launched the country's socialist revolution after winning the presidency in 1998.

Venezuelans have been suffering food and medicine shortages for months, leading many to skip meals or go without crucial treatment.

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The protests were triggered after a 15-year office ban was imposed on key opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Maduro's supporters announced they too would stage a major march that day in central Caracas. "We need to get out on the street and fight, to tell these people we don't want them", 67-year-old protester, Maria Guedez, was quoted as saying.

He said he wanted elections "so as to hand a defeat to those people very soon, so that they will stop the rioting and violence; to respond to them with votes".

The National Assembly later held a special meeting with dozens of civil society members to establish an agenda and create working groups with the goals of holding elections, letting humanitarian aid enter the country, restoring democratic institutions and freeing those deemed political prisoners.

The opposition is demanding a date for gubernatorial elections, meant to be held previous year, and is seeking early presidential elections.

They condemned "aggression and manipulation" against Venezuela that they said "threaten its sovereignty, independence and stability".

On Sunday the president called on the opposition to return to stymied efforts at dialogue and said he was eager for regional elections to take place.

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