Demonstrators take cover during anti-government protests in Caracas, Venezuela.
Demonstrators take cover during anti-government protests in Caracas, Venezuela. Fernando Llano

Mass rallies denounce Maduro

AT LEAST three people were killed and dozens injured in Venezuela as hundreds of thousands of protesters hit the streets to denounce President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela's public prosecutor's office said it had launched investigations into the shooting deaths of a 17-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman.

The deaths bring to eight the number of protesters killed this month in an escalating political crisis

President Maduro's opponents accuse him of effectively creating a dictatorship and plunging the economy into crisis.

Despite having the world's largest proven oil reserves, Venezeula is plagued by chronic shortages of food, medicine and other essentials and unemployment is about 25%.

The government has delayed local and state elections and blocked attempts by the Opposition to oust the President through a referendum.

Mr Maduro ordered troops onto the streets of Caracas before the rally and called on his supporters to attend.

Anti-Maduro protesters were prevented from reaching parts of the city, with water cannons and tear gas used in violent clashes.

The President has accused the US of funding right-wing opposition groups and called for the expansion of armed civilian militias following weeks of violent protests in the nation's capital.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused the Maduro government of "violating its own constitution” and "not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard”.



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