The Latest: US official expresses concern over Venezuela

AP News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2017 5:02 PM
The Latest:  US official expresses concern over Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The latest on opposition and pro-government marches in Venezuela (all times local):

5 p.m.

The U.S. secretary of state says the Trump administration is concerned about the political turmoil in Venezuela and feels socialist President Nicolas Maduro is trying to squash the voice of his opponents.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tells reporters at the State Department that the U.S. is "concerned that the government of Maduro is violating its own constitution and is not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard." He says Venezuela's government is not allowing the opposition "to organize in ways that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people."

Tillerson says the U.S. is watching the situation closely and is working with others, particularly through the Organization of American States, to communicate its concerns to Venezuela.

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4:35 p.m.

Authorities say a second protester has been killed in anti-government protests taking place across Venezuela.

The 23-year-old woman identified as Paola Ramirez was killed by gunfire from pro-government groups circling protesters in the western city of San Cristobal, the town's mayor told The Associated Press. There were no other details immediately available.

Earlier, a 17-year-old was pronounced dead at a Caracas hospital after being shot in the head while walking near a protest.

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2:10 p.m.

A Venezuelan teenager who was shot in the head near anti-government protests in the capital has died.

Miguel Salomon is president of the Clinicas Caracas hospital. He says the boy died in the operating room as surgeons attempted to save his life.

Venezuela's chief prosecutor said she is investigating the Wednesday shooting incident amid conflicting reports over the cause of death. Some opponents of President Nicolas Maduro say armed pro-government militias opened gunfire on a crowd of protesters, bu top officials say the boy named Carlos Moreno was assaulted while walking home from a soccer game.

There have been five other deaths nationwide tied to protests that began in early April after the Supreme Court gutted the opposition-controlled congress of its last remaining powers.

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2 p.m.

Venezuela has reiterated to the Organization of American States that it does not recognize the hemispheric group's resolution saying the South American country had violated constitutional order.

Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada spoke as the opposition and government supporters held dueling marches in Caracas.

Moncada told members of the Washington-based organization that the resolution by the OAS on April 3 was to blame for the violence that occurred at demonstrations in the last two weeks.

The ambassador also accused the United States and OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro of encouraging an overthrow of Venezuela's socialist government, echoing an earlier accusation by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

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12:45 p.m.

A senior diplomatic official for the Western Hemisphere was in Miami condemning the government of Venezuela as the opposition in the South American nation flooded into the streets for a massive demonstration.

Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro told an audience at an economic forum that Venezuela has "deteriorated into a full-scale dictatorship." He said Venezuelans have been denied basic human rights and that the government of President Nicolas Maduro is only concerned with maintaining its power.

Almagro said the OAS would continue to seek a restoration of democracy.

He spoke Wednesday at the 7th World Strategic Forum at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

The OAS recently issued a strong rebuke to Venezuela for the slide toward militarism. Maduro said the hemispheric organization was persecuting his country.

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12:30 p.m.

Marchers in the opposition demonstration in Caracas included Liliana Machuca, who earns about $20 a month holding two jobs teaching literature.

 Her face was covered in a white substance to protect herself from the nauseous effects of what she expects will be another day of dodging tear gas canisters.

Machuca said during Wednesday's march says she doesn't expect change overnight, but believes that protesting is her only option after all the abuses she says have been committed by the government.

She says: "This is like a chess game and each side is moving whatever pieces they can. ..... we'll see who tires out first."

A short block away from where the opposition was gathering, a sea of red-shirted government supporters marched by calmly, some dancing to a salsa band.

They included state workers like Leidy Marquez, who was bused in from Tachira state on the other side of teh country.

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11:50 a.m.

Venezuelan National Guard members are deploying tear gas on an opposition march in western Caracas in an effort to disperse demonstrators.

The marchers who have flooded some major streets are refusing to budge.

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 are holding their own counter demonstration.

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10:40 a.m.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez says foreigners shouldn't meddle in Venezuela's internal affairs.

Rodriguez spoke Wednesday during a visit to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, referring to dueling opposition and pro-government marches being held the same day in the South American country.

The Cuban official notes that Venezuela is a sovereign state with a democratically elected government.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused the U.S. State Department of encouraging Venezuelan opponents to attempting a government overthrow. American officials have rejected such charges in the past.

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10:30 a.m.

Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have called on Venezuelans to take to the streets for what they've dubbed the "mother of all marches" against the embattled socialist leader.

Demonstrators are converging from 26 different points spread across the capital to attempt to march downtown to the Ombudsman's office. It's a route tens of thousands of angry protesters have attempted a half-dozen times in the past few weeks only to find their progress blocked by light-armored vehicles and a curtain of tear gas and rubber bullets fired by riot police officers.

At least five deaths have been blamed on the strong-armed response to protests that were triggered by the government-stacked Supreme Court's decision three weeks ago to strip the opposition-controlled congress of its last remaining powers.