Venezuelans Begin Nationwide Strike
Opposition forces in Venezuela have launched a two-day national strike aimed at pressuring President Nicolas Maduro to cancel an upcoming vote to create a constitutional assembly.
The shutdown will end with a protest march on Friday in the capital, Caracas, in a last-ditch effort to force Maduro to scrap the vote scheduled for Sunday, July 30.
The president says the proposed constitutional assembly is needed to restore order in Venezuela, which has been engulfed in near-daily violent clashes between protesters and security forces since April. More than 100 people have been killed and thousands injured since the protests began.
Opposition leaders say Maduro is using the referendum as a means of imposing autocratic rule.
Venezuelans took part in a 24-hour work stoppage last Wednesday, with protesters turning tree limbs, wires, trash and furniture into roadblocks.
Maduro has continued to forge ahead with his plans despite the intense opposition. He has followed through with a vow to arrest any new Supreme Court judges appointed by the opposition-dominated National Assembly, with three judges detained by intelligence forces since Saturday.
The protests were sparked by growing anger over Venezuela’s crumbling oil-rich economy, which has been decimated by the drop in global energy prices, and government corruption.
The economic downturn has left supermarket shelves across the country bare, forcing many Venezuelans to cross into neighboring Brazil and Colombia to buy food.
Maduro blames his country’s woes on the United States and warns against intervention by the Organization of American States, saying that would surely bring on civil war.