Death toll rises as Venezuela strike enters second day

Posted July 28, 2017

"We need a channel of humanitarian aid since our patients are dying of the most basic diseases", Dr. Rebeca Sau in Venezuela said. Overall, fewer people appeared to be heeding the shutdown than the millions who participated in a 24-hour strike last week.

With the approach of controversial elections on Sunday of a 545-seat Constituent Assembly to rewrite the constitution, the opposition and the Maduro government skirmished in the streets.

What the protesters want now, Bloomberg's Andrew Rosati told Morning Edition from Caracas, is to halt the impending constituent assembly: "And on top of that, the main demand from the opposition is a new round of free and fair elections".

More than 100 people have died in four months of protests against President Nicolas Maduro's government.

Riot security forces fire at a rally during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela July 26, 2017. An average of 78 people a day died violently previous year in this country of 31.5 million, according the non-governmental Venezuelan Violence Observatory.

The Colombian flagship carrier is the latest airline to leave the country, further isolating Venezuelans amid widespread unrest and protests. The U.S. also joined with a dozen other regional governments in urging Maduro to suspend Sunday's election of a national assembly for rewriting the charter.

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U.S. President Donald Trump spared Venezuela for now from broader sanctions against its vital oil industry, although such actions were still under consideration.

A week earlier Oscar Perez, a police officer, stole a helicopter and launched an attack against Venezuela's pro-government Supreme Court and the Interior Ministry in Caracas.

Cuba and Venezuela became close allies in the late 1990s under the respective leaderships of Fidel Castro and his younger disciple Hugo Chavez, both now deceased.

US officials say the Venezuelan government could face additional sanctions that could hit the country's oil industry.

Maduro critics also held an unofficial vote on July 16 to demonstrate public opposition.

He also called the sanctions "illegal, insolent and unprecedented".

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In an act of protest, the opposition has declined to put up candidates and encouraged citizens to boycott the election, arguing that the way the assembly has been set up is skewed in Maduro's favour.

A two-day general strike was organized by the opposition in defiance of the vote.

And global outcry only goes so far: The prospect of hitting Venezuela with worldwide sanctions is limited at the UN by the country's ties with China and Russian Federation, and at the Organization of American States (OAS) by loyalty from Caribbean nations who have benefited from cheap oil sales from Venezuela in the past, O'Neil says.

A recent study by a group of Venezuelan universities showed that 93 per cent of respondents said they did not have enough income to buy the food they needed. The assembly could dramatically reshape government and help Maduro further consolidate his power.

"The dictatorship says we can't protest from tomorrow. So?"

Weighing in on Venezuela's ongoing unrest which has been ravaging the Latin American country since April, Maduro said he believes the solution to the crisis will only be reached "through democracy, popular vote".

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