CARACAS – Clashes between protesters and security forces on Wednesday left at least two dead and 50 others detained in Venezuela, on the first day of the 48-hour general strike against the Constituent Assembly proposed by the government.
The latest victims, a 30-year-old man who died in Merida and a 16-year-old boy in Caracas, brought the death toll to 102.
On his Twitter account, the mayor of the state capital of Merida, Carlos Garcia, blamed police officers for the death of a protester identified as Rafael Vergara, whom the mayor claimed was a victim of the “repression of the dictatorship bodies,” without specifying whether the victim was shot as his neighbors indicated.
Garcia added that the same neighbors of the area and two other zones of the state were “besieged and repressed by state bodies and government groups” of President Nicolas Maduro.
According to the Public Ministry’s Twitter account, a prosecutor from the Metropolitan Region of Caracas confirmed the death of the teenager in a protest carried out in the neighborhood of Petare.
The strikes also took place in other Venezuelan cities, often triggered by police efforts to clear roads blocked with barricades by protesters.
The opposition said 92 percent of the public participated in the strike, a figure which was dismissed by the President.
Maduro, however, responded during an action with his sympathizers transmitted on mandatory radio and television channels that the call for the strike was “defeated” by the “working class” that obtained “a total victory today against the attempt of an indefinite strike.”
For the opposition, however, the strike was a success.
“In total, we obtained 92-percent participation in throughout the national territory,” said Freddy Guevara, deputy of the opposition alliance Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD).
According to Guevara, the general strike had the highest compliance rate in the transport sector, followed by oil, commercial and public sectors, with minimum percentages above 80 percent.
With at least 50 people arrested on Wednesday, the human rights organization Foro Penal has recorded more than 4,500 arrests since the current wave of protests began in April.
The opposition aims to stop the election of the Constituent Assembly scheduled for Sunday, a body that would tighten and consolidate the “dictatorship” of Maduro, according to them.
On the other hand, the pro-government movement is pushing for this process in order to “strengthen the revolution” and underpin the “communal state.”
The start of the strike coincided with the penultimate day of the campaign for the Constituent Assembly election, and will remain until Thursday.
Maduro, for his part, asked supporters from the rest of the country to travel to Caracas and be part of what will be “the mother of the constituent campaign closures.”
He has summoned the Venezuelan people to the polls on Sunday to elect more than 500 members for the Constituent Assembly, a move that was rejected by several nations and international bodies.
A demand to suspend the Sunday election came Wednesday from the Organization of American States (OAS), which issued a joint statement signed by 13 countries and its secretary general, Uruguayan Luis Almagro.
The process of the Constituent Assembly “would mean the definitive dismantling of democratic institutions,” he warned.
In addition, the US Treasury Department announced Wednesday a new round of sanctions affecting senior government officials and military bodies, and warned that there will be further punishment if the government proceeds with the call for the Constituent Assembly.
The measure will freeze any property that they have in the US and they will be prohibited from making transactions with Americans or people under US jurisdiction.