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Roses in hand, Venezuelan women protesters face security forces

CARACAS Dressed in white and chanting “Liberty!”, tens of thousands of women opposed to Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro marched on Saturday, proffering roses to security forces who blocked their way.

The women’s marches, which took place in most major cities around the South American oil producer, were the latest in five weeks of sustained protests against Maduro whom opponents decry as a dictator who has ruined the economy.

In Caracas, marchers sang the national anthem and shouted “We want elections!” They were halted at various points by lines of policewomen and National Guard troops with armoured cars.

The opposition, which has majority support in Venezuela after years of being in the shadow of the ruling Socialist Party, is demanding that delayed state elections be held and the 2018 presidential vote be brought forward.

They also want the government to free scores of jailed activists, allow humanitarian aid from abroad to offset a brutal economic crisis, and respect the independence of the legislature where the opposition won a majority in 2015.

Highlighting vandalism and violence by young masked protesters, Maduro says opponents are seeking a coup with U.S . support and harbour “terrorists” and “murderers” in their ranks.

In response to the crisis, the 54-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez is setting up a super body known as a “constituent assembly” with powers to rewrite the constitution, shake up public powers, and potentially replace the legislature.

“This march is against opposition terrorism, they are destroying everything,” said cook Fredesvilda Paulino, 54, at a pro-government rally also in Caracas on Saturday where red-shirted women waved pro-Maduro flags and banners.

The women’s marches were organised as part of an opposition attempt to vary tactics and keep momentum against Maduro.

Women have often been feeling the brunt of Venezuela’s economic crisis due to widespread food and medicine shortages, huge lines at shops, soaring prices, and increasing hunger in the nation of 30 million people.

THIRTY-SEVEN DEATHS

Since the anti-Maduro protests began in early April, at least 37 people have died, with victims including supporters of both sides, bystanders and members of the security forces.

Opposition leaders say the constituent assembly is a biased mechanism designed to keep an unpopular leader in power.

They say the government is to blame for violence by young protesters as authorities are refusing a free vote to resolve the crisis and are needlessly blocking and repressing marches.

“Just let us vote, and this will all end,” said teacher Anlerisky Rosales, 22, in the opposition women’s march in Caracas. “There is too much suffering in Venezuela . If we have to, we will give our lives in the street until Maduro goes.”

Various female protesters marched topless with black face masks in mourning for the fatalities.

At one point, a female government official emerged from the security lines to receive a petition and talk with the demonstration leaders.

With Maduro’s approval ratings at around 24 percent – less than half the level at the time of his narrow election victory in 2013 – and Venezuela suffering a fourth year of harrowing recession, the opposition’s challenge is to keep up street pressure and draw in support from poor former “Chavista” sectors.

Officials are hoping they become exhausted and disillusioned, while highlighting the violence of young opposition hotheads to try to discredit the whole opposition.

Many Venezuelans are closely watching the armed forces, who have the potential to tip the balance if they disobey government instructions or give Maduro a nudge behind the scenes.

Top armed forces officials have been pledging loyalty in public, though opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Friday that 85 military officials had been arrested for dissent.

(Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Caracas, Anggy Polanco in San Cristobal, Maria Ramirez in Ciudad Guayana; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Security guard injured in knife-point robbery in Mansfield

A man has been arrested in connection with a knife-point robbery at a Nottinghamshire bookmakers. A security guard was injured while detaining a man in Market Place, Mansfield, following the robbery at Betfred at about 11.15am today (Tuesday, May 2).


Read more: Patients recalled after Nottingham surgeon is diagnosed with HIV1


He was taken to hospital but his injuries are not believed to be serious. Nottinghamshire Police2 officers arrested a 44-year-old man on suspicion of robbery and wounding with intent in connection with the incident.


Read more: Renewed appeal after sex attack on Nottingham canal path3


The Post has launched a Whatsapp to help you keep up to date with the latest news . If you’d like to receive one daily message with the main headlines, as well as breaking news alerts, text NEWS to 07790 586202 . Then add the number to your phone contacts book as ‘Nottingham Post’ .

Your phone number won’t be shared with other members of the group.

References

  1. ^ Patients recalled after Nottingham surgeon is diagnosed with HIV (www.nottinghampost.com)
  2. ^ Nottinghamshire Police (www.nottinghampost.com)
  3. ^ Renewed appeal after sex attack on Nottingham canal path (www.nottinghampost.com)

Member of security watchdog OSCE killed in Ukraine

One member of European security watchdog OSCE’s monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine was killed and two others were injured after their vehicle drove over a mine near Luhansk.

An American man was killed and a German woman was injured on Sunday morning, a spokesman for Austria’s foreign ministry said . Austria holds the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Germany’s foreign ministry said two were injured, but gave no immediate details . The OSCE confirmed on Twitter that a patrol with six members and two armoured vehicles had been in a “serious incident” but gave no further information.

Three years after Moscow annexed the Crimean region, tensions between Ukraine and separatists in the Russian-held eastern part of the country remain high and a 2015 ceasefire agreement is violated regularly.

The Ukrainian military said the incident took place at 10:17 local time (0717 GMT) near the small village of Pryshyb, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The unarmed, civilian OSCE mission with more than 700 international observers was deployed in 2014 . The role of the monitors includes verifying the withdrawal of heavy weapons as agreed under the 2015 ceasefire agreement.

“It is a terrible tragedy,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement, calling for “an immediate end to the violence and unjustified accusations, especially on the part of separatists in eastern Ukraine.”

“It is in the interest of everyone involved, especially the conflict parties on the line of engagement, that OSCE observers are able to carry out their important, indispensable, and at once difficult and dangerous work,” Gabriel said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz on Twitter both called for an investigation of the incident . Kurz said he had spoken to the mission’s ambassador, Ertugrul Apakan.

“Need thorough investigation; those responsible will be held accountable,” Kurz said on Twitter.

A spokesman for the OSCE said further information would be released as it became available.

The 57 member states of the OSCE, which include Ukraine, Russia and the United States, in March extended its monitoring in Ukraine by a year.

Gabriel said the OSCE patrols had clearly prevented a more serious military escalation in recent years.

(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich, Francois Murphy in Vienna, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Andrea Shalal in Berlin; editing by Jason Neely)