Venezuela: Mass rally, violent clashes in 50th day of protests

CARACAS, Venezuela — Massive demonstrations, violence and a rising death toll marked 50 consecutive days of anti-government protests in Venezuela.

Hundreds marched on Saturday along Caracas’s Francisco Fajardo highway, one of city’s major routes, while some flanked a gigantic sign that read “Elections Now” over an overpass.

“Fifty days facing threats, tear gas and pellets. Fifty days in which we have transformed fear into courage and strength,” opposition leader Miguel Pizarro wrote on Twitter.

Anti-government protesters want new elections and have called for President Nicolas Maduro’s resignation. The government has repeatedly blocked any attempts to oust Maduro from power by a referendum vote. It has also delayed local and state elections.

Since March 29, opposition leaders have faced off with Maduro and his supporters, accusing him of imposing a dictatorship.

Violence erupts

A police officer struggles with a demonstrator May 20 during an anti-government protest in Caracas.

Protests turned violent in Caracas later on Saturday when demonstrators and police clashed surrounded by a mix of tear gas and exploding Molotov cocktails.

Video footage shows dozens of protesters wearing helmets, bandanas and gas masks as they run through the streets. Military tanks rolled down the streets with gas canisters hurling up in the air.

As small explosions erupted, medics were seen carrying the injured to nearby ambulances.

It’s unclear how many people were injured but more than 950 have been injured in Venezuela since the protests began, the country’s attorney general’s office said Saturday.

Mourning the victims

Relatives attend the funeral of Francisco Guerrero, a 15-year-old who died after he was injured May 17 during the political unrest in Venezuela's state of Tachira.

Family and friends buried 15-year-old Francisco Guerrero, a boy who was killed late last week amid protests in Venezuela’s western state of Tachira.

At the cemetery, Guerrero’s coffin — draped in a Venezuela flag — was carried to his last stop on Saturday while a song with lyrics “they killed an innocent” were played.

The teen was at a market in an area where anti-government protests were happening when he was shot in the abdomen, according to Venezuela’s attorney general’s office.

His family has accused the National Guard of the shooting.

Some 2,000 National Guard troops and 600 special operations forces were deployed to Tachira last week as part of what the government calls a strategy to protect and defend the nation.

Guerrero’s death is one of 47 protest-related deaths that the attorney general’s office is investigating.

Some deaths have been linked to both opposition and pro-government protests while others happened during acts of vandalism unrelated to the political unrest.

Americans react to Venezuela’s unrest

Protesters demanded the resignation of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in a rally held May 20 in Miami.

Members of Miami’s Latin American community gathered Saturday in a rally condemning dictatorships in Venezuela and Cuba.

Dozens gathered at Jose Marti Park in Little Havana waving Venezuelan, Cuban and American flags.

“We hope Trump blocks the oil of Maduro,” said Carlos Fernandez. “That will throw down not only Maduro, but also Castro.”

The rally comes a few days after the US Treasury Department issued sanctions on eight members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice and barred American citizens from engaging in any financial transactions with them.