President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela has announced elections for a new constituent assembly and millions of Venezuelans have joined a general strike by the opposition to create the pressure on the President to cancel elections. Sporadic clashes have been observed in various parts of the country and hundreds have been arrested.
Since April, when opposition protests intensified, almost 100 people have died across the country.
Protesters barricaded roads in the capital, Caracas, and other cities with rubbish and furniture. The opposition said that 85% of the country joined the strike. However according to Maduro the strike was minimal and the agitators will have to face the law.
But in pro-government areas of the capital, life went on as usual, with shops open and streets busy. Public employees also appeared to have worked normally. (kbc.co.ke)
In several cities, police fired tear gas as they clashed with protesters. According to a local rights group more than 360 people had been arrested across the country. (kbc.co.ke)
Colombia, France, Spain, the US and the EU have urged the Venezuelan government to cancel the vote for a new constituent assembly on 30 July. (kbc.co.ke)
President Nicolas Maduro pledged to forge ahead with reshaping Venezuela's government despite the protests and a US threat to levy economic sanctions if he continued. (hindustantimes.com)
The never ending protest
A public transport strike appeared to have halted nearly all bus traffic. Thousands of private businesses defied government demands to stay open during the first major national strike since a 2002 stoppage that failed to topple Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez. (hindustantimes.com)
The 24-hour strike was meant as an expression of national disapproval of Maduro's plan to convene a constitutional assembly that would reshape the Venezuelan system to consolidate the ruling party's power over the few institutions that remain outside its control. The opposition is boycotting the July 30 election to select members of the assembly. (hindustantimes.com)
In a series of violent attacks in Caracas, groups of masked young men set fire to a handful of blockades and hurled stones at riot police, who fired back tear gas. (hindustantimes.com)
Meanwhile Isaias Medina, the U.N. diplomat, has resigned from his post after opposition protests began in early April following a Supreme Court decision stripping the National Assembly of its remaining powers. He said that he could no longer work for a government that advocates for human rights but ends up violating them in their own country. He added that he has never identified with either government or opposition parties, but was irked by images of national guardsmen and police launching tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, many of them young students. (hindustantimes.com)
However Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela's ambassador to the UN mentioned that Medina was sacked due to his unacceptable behaviour.
The opposition has called for people to come out on Saturday in support of the newly elected eight judges of the supreme court that will be selected by the opposition led constituent assembly.