On buses and trains, Venezuela opposition leaders protest Maduro

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 15, 2017 12:22 PM

By Diego Oré and Andreína Aponte

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan legislators and opposition leaders on Thursday staged protests against President Nicolas Maduro aboard buses and trains in the capital of Caracas in an effort to bypass blockades of street demonstrations by security forces.

Maduro's adversaries have for more than two months been holding marches and rallies that are routinely cut short by troops and police, resulting in violent clashes that have left nearly 70 people dead.

"Our message is going to travel all the stations of the subway," said opposition deputy Juan Mejia before boarding a Caracas subway train.

"Our message will reach all those Venezuelans who have expressed a desire for a different country, but who have to go out and get their daily bread to help their family."

Mejia said that employees of the Caracas subway system, which has for years been closely controlled by the ruling Socialist Party, had made announcements over loudspeakers warning of delays due to "a group of opposition sympathizers."

Maduro's critics say he is seeking to forge a dictatorship through a legislative superbody known as a constituent assembly that is to be elected on July 30 in a vote that opposition leaders say is rigged in favor of the Socialists.

Maduro, who was elected after the death of his mentor Hugo Chavez in 2013, says the wave of protests is an effort to overthrow him and blames the opposition for the scores of deaths. He says the constituent assembly will help the country escape a crippling economic crisis.

Another group of deputies boarded city buses that run through Caracas and nearby cities and explained to passersby their view that the constituent assembly "formalizes the dictatorship."

Activists also organized a 6:00 a.m. visit to the headquarters of the National Electoral Council, which the opposition accuses of favoring Maduro's government, to put up posters with messages such as "CNE accomplice of the dictatorship."

It was the first time during the current wave of demonstrations that protesters were able to reach the doors of the institution, because previous marches to the headquarters have been blocked by security forces.

(Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)