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Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to protest the government of President Nicolás Maduro as the country marked its 207th anniversary of the revolution that led to its independence from Spain.
A teenager who was shot in the head in Caracas near one of the protests has died in the hospital, according to the Associated Press. Opponents of the government said pro-government militias opened fire on a crowd, but government officials say the boy was assaulted while walking home from a soccer game.
Marches started in the early morning; closer to noon, the Venezuelan National Guard started deploying tear gas on people marching on the west side of Caracas, according to the Associated Press.
Liliana Machuca, a teacher in Caracas told the AP she believes protesting is her only option after all the “abuses” she says have been committed by the government.
“This is like a chess game and each side is moving whatever pieces they can. … we’ll see who tires out first,” she said.
The country entered its fourth week of protests following two Supreme Court decisions — to revoke the impunity that protects legislators and to dissolve the opposition-controlled legislature, a move that many including the Organization of American States (AOS) dubbed as an “auto-coup d’etat.”
The Supreme Court reversed the decisions amid mounting international pressure and after the Venezuelan Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, called the decisions “a rupture of the constitutional order.”
Since then, people have been protesting for the removal of the Supreme Court Justices, the reinstatement of gubernatorial and local elections, the release of the political prisoners and ultimately, Maduro’s resignation.
“I went to the rally because I wanted to get those images of what’s going on, of people protesting. I know it’ll help us get rid of this government,” Hector Trejo told NBC News. Trejo, 47, is a photographer for El Estímulo magazine covering Western Caracas. “But it’s hard because when government supporters see you with a camera they send motorcycles to try and grab it from you,” he added.
At this timein La Plaza Bolívar of
Human rights organizations, several Latin American countries and the United States have accused Venezuelan security forces of using excessive force and violence to quash the protesters. Protesting is a right protected by the Venezuelan constitution. During this last wave, at least five people have died and hundreds have been arrested.
Maduro accused the U.S. State Department of encouraging a military intervention.
The country is in the middle of an economic crisis with an inflation rate that reached 800 percent in January. People are starving and the lack of medication and supplies has led to deaths.
“I came to march because I believe in this country and I want our youth to have a future; Venezuelans want to stay,” said Mercedes Expósito, 53, who told NBC News that people say they want to stay in the marches though they’re “choking from the tear gas; they will wait until the government runs out of its bombs.”