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Venezuela's Maduro promises 40 percent wage hike after opposition protests

President Nicolas Maduro has promised workers a 40 percent minimum wage hike a day after opposition leaders organized a nationwide protest strike. The opposition has demanded a political trial to remove Maduro.

"I decree and will sign a 40 percent overall rise in workers' legal minimum wage," Maduro said in a public speech in Venezuela on Thursday.

It was unlikely, however, that the announcement would put to rest opposition members' calls for his resignation. 

Opposition leaders convened to push a political trial to remove the president from his post on Thursday. They also urged citizens to rally outside the parliament in Caracas on Thursday to support the National Assembly. But media reports said government supporters and security forces impeded their access to the building. The opposition leaders, who hold a majority in the National Assembly, said there were power cuts in the legislative palace early on Thursday and that they had to depend on a backup generator.

"The federal legislative palace was built by Guzman Blanco [Venezuela's president in the late 19th century]. In that era, there was no electricity and they held sessions anyway," parliament administrator Roberto Marrero wrote in a tweet.

The leaders heard testimony from citizens, who accused Maduro's security forces of executions during police raids, the death of children in badly equipped hospitals and denying subsidized food to the needy.

"Nicolas Maduro is responsible for everything happening in the country...It is not enough that they kill us with hunger, but they also execute our children," Brigit Duarte told representatives. Her son was killed in a raid. 

Opposition members have intensified demonstrations in Venezuela after the National Assembly voted to open a symbolic trial against Maduro. In nationwide rallies on Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of people marched in what was dubbed the "Takeover of Venezuela." Last week, members of the legislature accused the Maduro government of staging a "coup" after it blocked attempts to hold a referendum on removing the unpopular president from his position.

Watch video 01:03

Venezuelans take to streets in anti-Maduro protests

Maduro's government has dismissed the call for trial as meaningless.

"Here I am, working hard despite having abandoned my position," Maduro said in a televised address about state housing projects on Thursday. 

He also accused the opposing Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) of aiming to take over the country illegally, saying a planned nationwide strike on Friday and a march to the Miraflores presidential palace set for next week mirrored the situation before the 2002 coup, when former President Hugo Chavez was briefly deposed.

mg/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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