Anti-government protesters block streets in Venezuela | News | DW | 03.05.2017
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Venezuela

Anti-government protesters block streets in Venezuela

Protesters have blocked the streets of Caracas in reaction to President Nicolas Maduro's plans to rewrite Venezuela's constitution. Maduro's proposal has also drawn criticism from abroad.

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Unrest in Venezuela at Maduro's constitution plans

Protests against the government continued across Venezuela on Tuesday, as people blocked streets in the capital with broken concrete and flaming piles of rubbish to show displeasure with President Nicolas Maduro and his plan to rewrite the country's constitution.

With the country suffering a deep political and economic crisis, Maduro signed a decree on Monday to rewrite the document, saying a new constitution was needed in order to restore peace to the Latin American nation.

"This will be a citizens' assembly made up of workers," he said on Tuesday, following anti-government protests. "The day has come brothers. Don't fail me now."

The constitution was last rewritten in 1999 under former President Hugo Chavez, who called the new document the best in the world. Chavez said it would last for centuries and carried a pocket-sized version around with him, calling it "our Bible."

Riot police officers clash with opposition supporters (reuters/C.G. Rawlins)

Protests in Venezuela have turned violent in recent weeks, leaving at least 29 dead

Opposition lawmakers have said Maduro's call for a new constitution is evidence that Chavez's ideals no longer work in Venezuela.

However, if the process to rewrite the constitution moves ahead, opposition leaders will need to attract sympathetic figures in the assembly, which could prevent them from organizing the nearly daily street protests in Caracas of the past few weeks.

Protests by government supporters and opponents have often turned violent, as people have clashed with police. At least 29 people have been killed in the unrest over the last month.

Criticism from abroad

Foreign leaders have also spoken out against Maduro's plans to rewrite the constitution.

In a Facebook post, Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes called Maduro's proposal a "coup."

"President Nicolas Maduro's proposal for a constituent assembly is a coup d'etat. It is another break with democracy, violating the country's constitution," he wrote.

Michael Fitzpatrick, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, also criticized the move.

"We view it as a step backwards," said Fitzpatrick. "This process is not, by the initial indications, shaping up to be a genuine effort of national reconciliation, which is really what Venezuela needs now."

kbd/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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