Articles by "Latin America"

Chilean police have fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of students demonstrating for free education in the Latin American country.
Some 5,000 students took to the streets of Chile’s capital, Santiago, on Wednesday to protest the high costs of university education that have left many with crippling debts.
Violence broke out after the demonstrators started pelting objects at police and tried to block the capital's main avenue with fences.
Students clash with riot police during a protest against the slowness in the progress of the education reform in Santiago, on June 21,2017. (Photo by AFP)
The leaders of the Confederation of Chilean Students (Confech) in Santiago had earlier called on the protesters to pressure the government from the streets to improve education quality and provide access to university education.
“We call all Chileans to protest and express themselves, because this is the opportunity we have to rectify and dispute education in Chile,” said Daniel Andrade, president of the Federation of Students of University of Chile.
President Michelle Bachelet’s principal campaign pledge was educational reform before she came to power in 2014, but due to the fall in international copper prices, Chile’s main export, she failed to fulfill her promise.
Students protest against the slowness in the progress of the education reform in Santiago, on June 21,2017. (Photo by AFP)
In 2015, however, she approved a long-awaited reform plan to provide free university education, which was strongly rejected by Confech saying it covered only 14 percent of tuition costs, and not all of it.
Since then, Chile has been the scene of a number of mass student protests, not only in the capital but also in other major cities.
Chile will hold presidential elections in November and the current front-runner, conservative Sebastian Pinera, has promised to roll back recent educational reforms if elected, preferring a system of scholarships to free tertiary education for poorer students.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez speaks during a press conference in the framework of the 47th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Cancun, Mexico, June 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez has stepped down from her post to run for a seat in the controversial new Constituent Assembly.
Rodriguez tendered her resignation on Wednesday. She had been foreign minister of Venezuela since December 2014.
President Nicolas Maduro was quick to offer words of praise for his close ally.
Rodriguez “truly deserves the recognition of the entire country because she has defended Venezuelan sovereignty, peace and independence like a tiger,” Maduro said. “Congratulations comrade! Job well done.”
The Venezuelan president, in a speech on state television, named the country’s ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), historian Samuel Moncada, as the new foreign minister.
The development came as Maduro strives to send more of his allies to the Constituent Assembly, whose election is set for July 30. First lady Cilia Flores has already announced her own bid to run for a seat in the assembly.
Maduro, whose government has faced massive protests in recent months, says the new assembly, a body with powers to rewrite the constitution and override other institutions, is a must to bring back peace to the country. The opposition, however, has already boycotted the vote, arguing that the voting procedures heavily favor the government and are aimed at keeping the ruling Socialist Party in power despite its current unpopularity.
Meanwhile, a meeting held by the 34-member OAS wound up empty-handed on issuing a formal condemnation of Caracas for its handling of the political and economic crisis in Venezuela. Another meeting, held two days earlier, had also failed to agree on a joint response to the situation in Venezuela, with a US-proposed draft resolution falling short of the three votes out of the required 23. The failure is speculated to be partly due to the Caribbean countries’ support for Caracas. Those countries are reportedly benefiting from discounted Venezuelan oil imports.
Opposition activists clash with riot police during a demonstration against the government of President Nicolas Maduro along a highway in Caracas, June 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Venezuela has been the scene of nearly three months of violent clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces. It started when the Supreme Court stripped the opposition-controlled parliament of its powers in March.
The decision was later revoked, but protesters continued to take to the streets across the country against Maduro’s government. The clashes have already left at least 75 people dead and over 1,300 wounded.
Critics denounce Maduro as a “dictator,” demanding elections, the freedom of jailed activists, permits for the entry of foreign aid, and autonomy for the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
The left-wing government says the protests are incited by the Unites Stated and has accused the opposition of hiring armed gangs. The opposition, too, has said the government has been using armed groups to intimidate opponents.

A handout picture shows Peruvian Economy Minister Alfredo Thorne appearing before the opposition-controlled Congress in Lima, Peru, on June 16, 2017. (Via AFP)
Peru's Congress has dismissed the finance minister following revelations that he allegedly asked the comptroller to green light a controversial project, a fresh blow to centrist President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and his efforts to jumpstart the faltering economy.
The single-chamber Congress voted 88-11 against embattled Finance Minister Alfredo Thorne, who had asked for a vote of confidence amid threats of censure and resigned within hours of the outcome.
"I thank Thorne for his outstanding work in the Finance Ministry and lament the decision taken by Congress," Kuczynski said on Twitter.
The vote ended the crisis over one of Kuczynski's closest cabinet members, but the dispute further strained relations between the opposition-dominated Congress and the executive.
Lawmakers railed against Thorne for refusing to accept wrongdoing after an audio recording surfaced in which he appeared to ask the comptroller to approve a modification to a $520-million airport contract in exchange for a bigger budget.
Thorne, whom Kuczynski has defended, denied using funding for the comptroller's office to try to secure a favorable review of the contract modification, which the government had promised to rescind on the comptroller's recommendation.
The vote marked the first time in decades that Congress has rejected a finance minister — an embarrassing rebuke for Kuczynski after he campaigned on promises to strengthen the economy and clean up government as a former Wall Street banker and World Bank economist.
Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski addresses the Latin America and Caribbean International economic forum, at the Economy Ministry in Paris, France, June 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Thorne "decided not to step down and the government decided to prolong" the controversy, said Luis Galarreta with the right-wing party Popular Force, which has a majority of congressional seats. "This parliament must withdraw the confidence to a minister who doesn't want to join us in making the country better."
Kuczynski's party has 17 congressional seats out of 130 and his year-old government has been dogged by clashes with Popular Force, led by his rival in last year's election, Keiko Fujimori.
In a sign of growing political tensions, shortly after the vote on Thorne, opposition lawmakers began questioning the interior minister in a process that could lead to a censure motion.
Three ministers have already left Kuczynski's original cabinet amid controversy, including his transportation minister, who, like Thorne, was a friend and former campaign adviser.
Prime Minister Fernando Zavala said a plan for the ministry would be announced in the coming days.
It was not clear who would replace Thorne, but Kuczynski is widely expected to appoint another business-friendly minister to try to revive slumping investments following a graft scandal and heavy flooding that knocked growth prospects.
The central bank now expects a 2.8 percent economic expansion this year, down from 3.9 percent in 2016.

Brazilian President Michel Temer (photo by AFP)
Brazil's federal police say there is solid evidence embattled President Michel Temer received bribes, a legal development that could see him suspended from office.
In a report made available by the Federal Supreme Court, the police said Temer — who was away in Russia Tuesday — benefited from bribe funds, even if he did so using someone else to collect or deposit the bribes.
Temer has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
But Brazil's top court said it had accumulated enough evidence of bribes being paid to merit an investigation into Temer for "passive corruption."
Prosecutor Rodrigo Janot will use the report as the foundation of the corruption case against the conservative president.
"Faced with silence from the president and his former assistant, there is irrefutable evidence... showing strongly that passive corruption [on Temer's part] took place," the document said in part.
The report referred to the president's relationship with suspended lawmaker Rodrigo Rocha Loures, who is in jail.
Rocha Loures was filmed with a suitcase stuffed with a 150,000-dollar payoff from a JBS executive.
The court's report alleges that Rocha Loures accepted bribes from JBS on Temer's behalf.
The president could be suspended if two-thirds of Congress voted to give a green light to the corruption investigation against the president.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez attends the 47th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Cancun, Mexico, on June 20, 2017. (Photos by AFP)
Venezuela has dared the US to “send in the Marines” after Washington tries to initiate a regional plan over the crisis in the country.
On Tuesday, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan attempted to garner support at an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting for a mission of mediators to be sent to Venezuela.      
"The 'contact group' you're proposing is completely useless and unnecessary," said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez at the meeting which was held in Mexico’s Cancun.
"The only way you could impose it would be to send in your Marines -- who would meet with a crushing response from Venezuela if they dared make such a misstep," she added.
An opposition activist clashes with riot police during a demonstration against the government of President Nicolas Maduro along the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas on June 19, 2017. 
The exchange came a day after OAS foreign ministers failed to agree on a joint response to the situation in Venezuela, with a US proposed draft resolution falling shy of the three votes out of the required 23.  
The US is now attempting to push the resolution’s passing in an upcoming OAS General Assembly which has a lower vote threshold.
Venezuela has on multiple occasions noted that it will not respect decisions made by the OAS - an organization which it is set to leave.
Venezuela has been the scene of anti-government protests for more than two months. Clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters have left over 74 people dead and over 1,300 wounded.
The unrest broke out after the Supreme Court stripped the opposition-controlled parliament of its powers. The decision was later revoked, but protesters continued to take to the streets across the country against the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Military commanders removed
Meanwhile, Maduro on Tuesday removed four top military commanders, including the head of a police force that is accused of attacking anti-government protesters during months of deadly unrest.
The commander of the National Guard military police, General Antonio Benavides Torres, will move on to “new responsibilities and battles,” Maduro told supporters in a speech.
He said he was also replacing the heads of the army, navy, and the central strategic command body.

Members of the Mexican Federal Police are pictured in Mexico City on February 27, 2015.(By AFP)
Gunmen have ambushed Mexican federal police agents, killing four and wounding seven in Guerrero, one of the country’s states that is most plagued by drug-violence, the government said.
The agents were attacked during an operation on Monday in the municipality of San Miguel Totolapan, the federal attorney general’s office said in a statement.
One criminal suspect was killed and three were wounded, the office said.
State authorities said soldiers and state police were searching for the gunmen. San Miguel Totolapan is a fiefdom of Los Tequileros, one of the bloodiest criminal gangs in Guerrero.
Violence has spiked in Guerrero over the past decade as a growing number of criminal gangs vie for control of crops of opium poppies and for drug-trafficking routes.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez leaves a meeting with foreign ministers ahead of the OAS 47th General Assembly in Cancun, Mexico, on June 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Venezuela’s foreign minister has walked out of a meeting of regional diplomats held to discuss the South American country’s political crisis as a 17-year-old anti-government demonstrator was shot and killed by security forces during another day of violent clashes in Caracas.
The Organization of American States meeting being held in the Mexican resort of Cancun on Monday once again narrowly failed to approve a resolution against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The United States, Mexico, Canada and several South American nations issued a statement expressing their “disappointment” at the vote, which for the second time in a month fell a few votes shy of the two-thirds majority of the 34 member nations needed for approval.
“What can we say to the sick, who can’t find medicines?” Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said of the setback, referring to the medicine shortages that Venezuelans are experiencing.
As the meeting took place, thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, to protest against Maduro’s government. Protesters chanted “Who are we? Venezuela! What do we want? Freedom!”
Amid the clashes on Caracas’ main highway, 17-year-old Fabian Urbina was killed as the result of a bullet wound to the chest. Several others were also shot.
In a rare rebuke of security forces, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol blamed excessive force by national guardsmen for the shootings, saying that troops who fired into the crowd would be held accountable.
The reproach came after cell phone videos circulated on social media showing the national guardsmen firing into a crowd in brazen violation of rules against using firearms to control protests.
Opposition activists clash with riot police during a demonstration against the government of President Nicolas Maduro along the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas on June 19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters marched in Caracas, on Monday, to show their support for the country’s Constituent Assembly and Maduro
Several diplomats made reference to the growing violence on the streets in Caracas. But it wasn’t enough to persuade enough countries to take a tougher stance against Maduro. 
Venezuela’s socialists have long enjoyed the support of left-leaning governments in Latin America loath to back measures they see as meddling in a sovereign country by an organization they consider an arm of US foreign policy. 
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez stormed out of the meeting, and claimed that more OAS members who she didn’t name were considering following Venezuela’s example and withdrawing from the Washington-based group, which has been putting pressure on her socialist government to hold timely elections, free political prisoners and scrap a bid to rewrite its constitution.
“Not only do we not recognize this meeting, we do not recognize any resolution coming out of it,” Rodriguez said.
Some countries had expressed hope at Monday’s meeting that they were close to some kind of pronouncement aimed at ending the increasingly bloody political strife in Venezuela, which has left at least 70 people dead and more than 1,300 injured. But the special session on Venezuela ended with no resolution approved.
What failed to gain enough votes was a relatively strongly-worded proposal calling on Maduro to “reconsider” a call for an assembly to re-write the constitution. The proposal got 20 votes in favor, five against and eight abstentions. Venezuela was counted absent.
The resolution would also have called for an end to violence, and for Maduro’s government to respect the separation of powers. He has been criticized for subjugating the judicial and electoral powers, even after he lost control of the country’s legislature.
Venezuela has struggled with an imploding economy, rampaging inflation and chronic shortages of food and basic consumer goods. Maduro has accused his opponents of sabotaging the country through an “economic war.”

Cuba’s President Raul Castro (C) talks with Bolivia’s President Evo Morales (R), and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, are seen in a photo of the ALBA summit at the Revolution Palace in Havana, December 14, 2014. (By AP)
Cuba has lashed out at US President Donald Trump for reinstating the anti-Havana travel and economic restrictions eased by the former Washington administration, decrying the measure as a “return to the coercive methods of the past.”
“The government of Cuba denounces the new measures toughening the embargo” imposed since 1962, said a statement read out on state television on Friday.
Earlier in the day, Trump said he was “cancelling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba” in yet another attempt to roll back the legacy of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Obama spent two years to improve relations with Cuba.
In 2014, the then US head of state announced the reopening of the American embassy in Havana, which was shut down in 1961.
The restoration of ties eased travel restrictions against Cuba, enabling businesses, including the tourism and food industries, to engage in commercial deals.
Obama also became the first sitting US president to pay a visit to the South American country in over 50 years.
In this March 21, 2016 file photo, Cuban President Raul Castro (R) lifts up the arm of the then US president, Barack Obama, at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (By AP)
However, during a speech in Little Havana, a Miami neighborhood, the US president said he would keep his campaign promise to reverse Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba.
Trump slammed the ex-administration for turning a blind eye to what he called Cuba’s rights violations and said “the previous administration’s easing of restrictions of travel and trade does not help the Cuban people. They only enrich the Cuban regime.”
The policy changes announced were partial, but Trump tightened rules for American nationals traveling to Cuba, banned ties with a military-run tourism firm and reaffirmed the existing US trade embargo.
Reacting to Trump’s move in the Friday statement, the government of Cuban President Raul Castro decried the “hostile rhetoric that recalls the time of open confrontation” and “return to the coercive methods of the past.”
Cuba regretted “a reversal in relations between the two countries,” the statement said. “Any strategy to change the political, economic and social system in Cuba, whether through pressure...or through more subtle methods, will be doomed to failure.”
Havana, however, said it was willing to hold “respectful dialog” with Washington.
Venezuela, Bolivia back Cuba
Trump’s policy rollback also drew criticism from Venezuela, which is Cuba’s main ally in the region.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose country has also been hit by harsh US economic sanctions, denounced Trump for opening a “new cycle of aggression” against Cuba.
Cuba “is not alone,” Maduro said. “We reject Donald Trump’s declarations against our brother Cuba. It is an offense against Latin America.”
The Venezuelan leader further censured Trump’s speech as “threatening” and “aggressive,” saying it exposed the US president’s “contempt” and “ignorance.”
Venezuelan Foreign Ministry Delcy Rodriguez also voiced solidarity with the Cuban nation via regional blocs, including the ALBA group of leftist nations.
The ALBA group, formally called the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, was founded during the friendship of late revolutionary Venezuelan and Cuban leaders, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, in 2004.
“US extremism aspires to cover the planet with misery, violence and death,” the top Venezuelan diplomat said on Twitter.
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales also joined the chorus of condemnations and said “it’s an abuse of power by the US empire not to listen to the whole world's support against the blockade of Cuba.”
“Instead of asking Cuba to free political prisoners, Trump should expel the criminal politicians sheltered in the USA,” he added.
Mexico also urged Washington and Havana to resolve their differences “via dialog.”

Hundreds of people have gathered in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, to protest against a recent government decision to take austerity measures affecting thousands of people with disabilities.
Protesters, among them citizens with disabilities, gathered in downtown Buenos Aires on Thursday, holding banners with messages including; “Don’t take away out pensions. Today we defend out rights.”
“The basic right of any person with a disability is to get the minimum wage which is a pension,” said a protester, who insisted they have “no other way to make a living.”
President Mauricio Macri brought back a 20-year-old decree to cut subsidies for at least 83,000 people with disabilities on Tuesday.
The order has eliminated or temporarily suspended a total of 83,133 pensions, according to Argentina’s Clarin newspaper.
People on wheelchairs participate in rally in Buenos Aires on June 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
In addition, the government stopped giving new disability certificates for the past year, while another 180,000 requests are still pending approval, the paper reported.
Reports of pension cuts sparked anger in the country, with critics saying the measures that target those with disabilities go too far.
Following the uproar, the government said it will not take away pensions from people with disabilities, describing the move as “an error.”
Since taking office in December 2015, Macri’s administration has pushed at least 1.5 million people into poverty, according to a report released in March by the Catholic University of Argentina.

Venezuela’s attorney general Luisa Ortega speaks to journalists outside the Supreme Court of Justice headquarters building in Caracas, Venezuela, June 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Venezuela’s attorney general has raised the stakes in her standoff with the government by demanding eight Supreme Court judges loyal to President Nicolas Maduro be put on trial.
A staunch figure of the ruling party, Attorney General Luisa Ortega, 59, is the highest public official to break ranks with Maduro over the country’s deadly political crisis.
She has accused him and his allies of acting unconstitutionally in their standoff against the opposition in recent months of anti-government protests.
In her latest maneuver to pressure the socialist president, she told reporters she had filed a case accusing the eight judges of allowing “a breakdown in constitutional order.”
The charge refers to a ruling by the court in late March that seized power from the opposition-controlled National Assembly legislature. The court later revoked the decision under international pressure, but it sparked a series of protests that has continued ever since.
Clashes between demonstrators and police have left 67 people dead, according to prosecutors.
Ortega said in a radio interview on Monday that intelligence officials had been threatening and harassing her family.
Pro-government lawmaker Pedro Carreno filed a motion in the assembly calling for the court to order that Ortega be examined by a psychologist.
“It is clear that this lady is not in her right mind,” he told reporters. He called for experts to declare she was suffering from “insanity” and should be fired.
‘A stubborn fight against president’
Former Supreme Court judge Blanca Rosa Marmol told AFP the assembly was the only body legally entitled to remove an attorney general from her post.
Analysts say Ortega’s legal challenges to the government could widen divisions in Maduro’s camp, making it harder for him to stay in power.
Last week, she filed a challenge against his effort to rewrite the constitution, branding it undemocratic.
The court dismissed the appeal on Monday, but Ortega promptly responded with a new series of legal challenges against the judges.
Anti-government demonstrators attack the administration headquarters of the Supreme Court of Justice as part of protests against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, June 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Maduro is accused of controlling the Supreme Court, which has fended off numerous legal and legislative moves against him over the past year and a half.
Protestors blame him for an economic crisis that has caused desperate shortages of food and medicine in the oil-rich country.
Maduro says the crisis is a US-backed conspiracy. He retains the public backing of the military.
“Whether it rains, thunders, or lightens on July 30, there will be elections,” Maduro said, referring to the constitutional assembly he wants to rewrite the document to expand his powers. “And in August, we’ll have our constituent assembly,” he said.
Maduro says the reforms are in response to the protests, but his opponents say that is a mere ploy to cling to power.
A survey by pollster Datanalisis indicated that 85 percent of Venezuelans opposed Maduro’s plan.

A general view of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) session in Brasilia, Brazil, on June 7, 2017 (Photo by AFP)
Brazil’s election court voted Friday against stripping President Michel Temer of his office in a major boost to his chances of beating a gathering corruption scandal.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) -- considering charges that Temer’s election in 2014 should be annulled because of the role of corruption money -- voted 4-3 to acquit the embattled center-right president.
The verdict spared recession-ravaged Brazil its second leadership crisis in 14 months, following the impeachment of leftist president Dilma Rousseff last year and her replacement by her then-vice president Temer.
The lead judge on the TSE case, Justice Herman Benjamin, headed the push to sack Temer, saying that systemic undeclared donations and bribes from big Brazilian corporations fatally undermined the 2014 Rousseff-Temer election in Latin America’s biggest country.
“This is enough to invalidate the mandate,” he said.
But in a marathon process during which each of the seven judges voted one by one, giving detailed arguments, the tide turned. Finally, the TSE’s president Gilmar Mendes cast the deciding vote with a call for cool heads and stability at a time of national turmoil.
“You don’t switch the president of the republic every hour,” he said. “There are serious proven facts but not enough to annul the mandate.”
Clearly feeling strengthened, Temer fired a dramatic shot in a separate obstruction of justice case that he faces by refusing a demand by prosecutors to provide a written deposition by Friday. He demanded that the probe against him be shut down instead.
Brazilian President Michel Temer (Photo by AFP)
Temer’s legal problems -- on top of corruption probes opened against a third of his cabinet and many of his congressional allies -- come just as Brazil is struggling to exit its worst recession in history.
If the TSE had removed Temer, Congress would have had to pick a new interim president to serve the rest of his term to the end of 2018.
Temer greeted the verdict as “a sign that the national institutions continue to guarantee the smooth functioning of Brazilian democracy,” his spokesman said afterward.
However, the decision caused dismay among those pushing for Brazil to face up to its corruption problem.
Attention will now turn to Temer’s battle against the parallel case in which he is accused of obstruction of justice and corruption.
Under the constitution, the lower house would have to approve the charges by a two-thirds majority before a trial could start in the Supreme Court.
That approval process in Congress could be lengthy and Temer is working daily to maintain enough support among legislators to defeat any eventual charges.
If he goes, the speaker of the lower house would take over for 30 days during which legislators would choose a new interim president to serve through 2018.
Eurasia Group consultants issued a note estimating that Temer’s chances of being toppled before the end of his term had dropped to 30 percent from 60 percent.

Fierce clashes between police and people opposing the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela have claimed the life of a teenager in the capital, Caracas, raising the overall death toll from recent unrest in the country to 66.
Violence erupted on Wednesday after security forces using armored vehicles, water cannons, and tear gas blocked protesters from marching to the national election board’s headquarters in the center of the capital.
The demonstrators, with masks and home-made shields, responded by pelting stones and Molotov cocktails.

Demonstrators are sprayed by a riot police water cannon during a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, June 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Opposition lawmakers alleged that the 17-year-old teenager, identified as Neomar Lander, was killed by a tear gas canister fired straight at him. The government, however, claimed that Lander died when a homemade mortar exploded in his hands during a confrontation with National Guard troops.
Videos and pictures circulating on social media showed medics trying to resuscitate the lifeless 17-year-old as he bled profusely in the chest.
The state prosecutor’s office said the circumstances of the boy’s death were being investigated, without giving details.

An injured demonstrator is helped during riots at a rally against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s government, in Caracas, June 7, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
Earlier, Venezuelan Defense Minister General Vladimir Padrino Lopez had called on the members of the military to refrain from excessive use of force and committing “atrocities” against protesters.
Critics denounce Maduro as a “dictator,” demanding elections, the freedom of jailed activists, permits for the entry of foreign aid, and autonomy for the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
“The government has closed all the democratic doors. So what else can we do? Going onto the streets is the only option we have left,” said opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who attended the Wednesday protest.
“Their violence does not intimidate us, their violence does not make us recoil. We know that the only possible destiny is the one we conquer in the present. Are we afraid of the repression? Of course we are. We are afraid of losing an eye due to gas, a bomb blowing up in our skull but we are even more frightened this will last forever,” a protester said.

Riot police clash with demonstrators during a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, June 7, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The Latin American country has been the scene of more than two months of violent clashes between protesters and security forces since the Supreme Court stripped the opposition-controlled parliament of its powers in March.
Although that decision was later revoked, protesters continued to take to the streets across the country against the president, who is now convening a constituent assembly to write a new constitution, further angering the protesters.
The left-wing government says the protests are incited by the Unites Stated and has accused the opposition of hiring armed gangs. The opposition, too, has said the government has been using armed groups to intimidate opponents.

Brazil's President Michel Temer (AFP photo, Brazilian Presidency)
A court in Brazil is to start a major trial against President Michel Temer which could unseat him over alleged wrongdoing during the campaign that led to the election of running mate Dilma Rousseff in 2014.
The electoral court was to open the proceedings against Temer on Tuesday after receiving testimony from executives of giant meatpacker JBS SA, who had said they gave illegal funds to Rousseff-Temer campaign three years ago.
The court had been expected to indict Rousseff, the former president who was kicked out of office last year after the opposition launched a successful impeachment.
Different scenarios have been proposed if Temer is forced to leave office like Rousseff. Some say he may appeal the conviction, delaying the process of finding a replacement for months. Others say a verdict against him could prompt members of his coalition government to withdraw their support and force him to resign. Sources close to the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, the main partner in Temer’s governing coalition, said the party was waiting for a court ruling to decide whether to abandon Temer's government.
Left-wing parties, represented by Temer, have called for snap elections so that Brazilians could pick their leader directly and avoid a caretaker government until general elections in 2018.
Brazil dipped into a fresh political crisis after revelations that Temer had endorsed the payment of hush money to silence a key witness in a massive graft scandal. Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered an investigation last month into Temer’s alleged corruption, racketeering and obstruction of justice.
A close aide of Temer was also arrested on Saturday after he was seen in a police video receiving a bag filled with 500,000 reals (about $152,000) in cash, further complicating the political crisis engulfing Temer's government.

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez delivers a speech during a rally in Caracas on September 24, 2011. (Photo by AFP)
A jailed Venezuelan opposition leader has called for more street protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, which he accused of “tyranny.”
In a video message posted online, Leopoldo Lopez expressed his “admiration for the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans” who have taken to the streets for more than two months “for democracy,” urging more such rallies.
He said that “rebellion, resistance and the protests are legitimate” against a government that was “despotic” and “tyrannical.”
Lopez, an opposition speaker and leader, described the protest movement as “historic” and said it “cannot end until we have reached victory.”  
The opposition figure, who was detained in 2014, is serving a 14-year jail term on charges of inciting violence in anti-government protests.
A judge, Nelson Moncada, who was involved in the sentencing of Lopez, was killed last week, in Caracas’ El Paraiso district, according to authorities.
The opposition, which blames Maduro for the county’s severe hyperinflation and widespread shortages of basic supplies, has been calling for an early presidential election meant to oust the president.
Masked protesters clash with riot police, during a rally against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas. (Photo by AFP)
Maduro has slammed the right-wing campaign to spark destabilization in the South American country, vowing that he will not hesitate to put behind bars those responsible for fomenting violence.
Venezuela has been the scene of almost daily pro-and anti- Maduro protests and clashes since early April, after the Supreme Court stripped the opposition-controlled parliament of its powers. 
The decision was later revoked, but protesters continued to take to the streets across the country against the government of Maduro.
Prosecutors say at least 65 people have so far been killed.
The government says the protests are incited by the Unites Stated to remove President Maduro from power and has accused the opposition of hiring armed gangs. The opposition, too, has said the government has been using armed groups to intimidate them.

Commander in chief of the Colombia FARC rebels Timochenko (L) and Commander Rodrigo Granda (R) attend a military parade in honor of Cuban leader Fidel Castro at Revolution Square in Havana, on January 2, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have threatened to hold off their demobilization, accusing the government of “repeatedly breaking” the terms of their peace deal.
“After the government’s repeated non-compliance with the Peace Agreement, the FARC is going to seek international monitoring,” rebel leader Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, aka Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, warned on Twitter on Sunday.
Earlier, Timochenko had said that he was considering postponing demobilization.
It is not yet clear what the FARC rebel leader exactly meant by seeking international monitoring as the peace agreement is already being overseen by United Nations representatives.
This is while President Juan Manuel Santos had said earlier that the government would stick to the plan and go ahead with the peace process based on the timetable.
“That is our commitment and we will fulfill it,” said Santos, adding that the peace process is “irreversible.”
The peace deal aims to end Latin America’s longest-running conflict, which began in 1964 and has dragged on ever since, between the Colombian government and FARC, the country’s biggest rebel group FARC.
The two conflicting sides signed a peace deal in August 2016 after four years of negotiations in the Cuban capital, Havana.
This image shows FARC rebels at the Transitional Standardization Zone in Pondores, Colombia, on April 3, 2017. (By AFP)
Colombians, however, rejected the peace deal in a referendum, forcing President Santos and FARC leaders to ink a new version of the peace accord, which was sent to Congress for ratification later that year instead of holding a second plebiscite.
Under the terms of the agreement, the rebels were due to have surrendered their weapons to international overseers by the May 30 deadline in a 180-day process, but the group said the process may take another two months.
The deal turns the guerrilla group into a Marxist political party after demobilization, while the government would make a raft of reforms meant to eliminate rural inequality and political exclusion, which are viewed as the root causes of the half-century conflict.
The conflict in Colombia dates back to 1967, when FARC as well as the ELN, another rebel group, took up arms for rural land rights.
The government says the conflict has left at least 260,000 fatalities and forced more than seven million people to leave their homes.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with Vice Presidents at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, on June 1, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
The Venezuelan president vows to hold a referendum on a new constitution he has proposed in an effort to restore calm to the country, which has seen two months of deadly unrest and anti-government protest rallies.
“I shall propose it explicitly: the new constitution will go to a consultative referendum so it is the people who say whether they are in agreement or not with the new, strengthened constitution,” Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday.
The president signed an executive order last month to form a constituent assembly comprised of “some 500 constituents,” who would be elected in a “direct and secret” vote to be given the powers to rewrite the constitution.
Elections for the new constituent assembly will be held in late July, but it is not yet clear when the referendum would be held.
However, critics said the initiative was “anti-democratic.”
Chief state prosecutor Luisa Ortega had said creating the assembly, without a plebiscite as happened in 1999 threatened to “eliminate” democracy in the country.
Venezuela’s current constitution was drawn up by Maduro’s predecessor, late Hugo Chaves. Chavez introduced changes to an older constitution when he was sworn in 1999. The changes allowed him to extend a five-year presidential term into a 13-year presidency.
There was no immediate reaction from the opposition, which has been calling for an early presidential election. It has refused to participate in the constituent assembly and called the plan “fraudulent.”
The opposition leaders argue that writing a new constitution would give the president an excuse to put off regional elections scheduled for this year and a presidential election that is to be held in 2018.
Protesters set to fire a motorcycle of a riot police during clashes in the capital Caracas on May 31, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The country has been the scene of huge protests and clashes since early April after the Supreme Court stripped the opposition-controlled parliament of its powers. 
The decision was later revoked, but protesters continued to take to the streets across the country against the government of Maduro.
At least 62 people have so far been killed in the unrest.
The government says the protests are incited by the Unites Stated to remove President Maduro from power and has accused the opposition of hiring armed gangs. The opposition, too, has said the government has been using armed groups to intimidate them.

This photo taken on September 14, 2014 shows Jimmie Akesson, the leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats party, in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by AFP)
The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party is the country's second largest, a reference poll suggests, two years after Sweden took in the highest number of refugees per capita in Europe.
With just over a year to go to a general election, Statistics Sweden (SCB) said Thursday that if an election were held today, the Sweden Democrats would garner 18.4 percent of voter support, up almost one percentage point from its previous survey in November.
The party would thereby overtake the conservative Moderates, which were credited with 18.1 percent.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's Social Democrats party, which has dominated Swedish politics in the postwar period, remains the largest with 31.1 percent support, according to SCB.
The Sweden Democrats have enjoyed a swift rise in public support in recent years, capitalizing on Swedes' frustration over immigration, segregation, crime and security.
They first entered parliament in 2010 with 5.7 percent of votes, rising to nearly 13 percent in the 2014 election.
But the party has long been shunned by Sweden's political establishment -- all of the parties in parliament have held up a cordon sanitaire around it because of its roots in the neo-Nazi movement.
The head of the conservative Moderates, Anna Kinberg Batra, broke a longstanding taboo in January, when she opened the door for cooperation with the Sweden Democrats, sparking a deep rift within her stunned four-party center-right opposition Alliance.
Since then, the Moderates have seen their support tumble, losing almost five points from SCB's November poll when it garnered 22.8 percent, as calls multiplied within the party for Batra's resignation.
Rejoicing over Thursday's poll numbers, the Sweden Democrats said the other parties would have to begin cooperating with them if they want to win a majority in parliament.
Lofven's government is a minority coalition with the Greens Party, while the four-party opposition Alliance also falls short of a majority.
"There's really no other alternative, and the Moderates have realized that," Mattias Karlsson, the Sweden Democrats parliamentary group leader, told news agency TT.
Over the years, the Moderates, which governed for two consecutive terms until 2014, have consistently lost voters to the Sweden Democrats, forcing them to take a harder stance against immigration.
Yet they have failed to win back those voters.
"The party continues to talk about immigration and immigrants but it hasn't helped it win back Sweden Democrat voters or gain stronger support for its immigration policies," Sweden's main daily Dagens Nyheter wrote in an editorial after SCB's poll was published.
"There will certainly be a discussion about whether the party should change course, but the party is split on that."
Sweden will hold legislative elections in September 2018.

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