Thousands of anti-government protesters once again took to the streets of Caracas on Saturday (June 24), as international pressure mounted on President Nicolas Maduro to hold free elections.
Demonstrators rallied outside an air base where a protester was shot dead by police earlier in the week – and were greeted with tear gas and rubber bullets.
🇻🇪 A lorry burns in Caracas during a demonstration against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
jbarreto1974</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AFP?src=hash">#AFP</a> <a href="https://t.co/vDHR940HRw">pic.twitter.com/vDHR940HRw</a></p>— Frédérique Geffard (fgeffardAFP) June 24, 2017
Tensions also ran high on the diplomatic front. After Maduro suggested this week Venezuela could return to the Organisation of American States (OAS) if its Secretary General Luis Almagro stepped down, Almagro hit back.
“Here is my response: I will resign from the General Secretariat the day that free, fair and transparent national elections are held without impediments,” Almagro said in a video message posted on Twitter.
Almagro conditioned his resignation offer on a long list of demands, including the release of political prisoners such as high-profile politician Leopoldo Lopez, and a guarantee of Supreme Court independence.
“Enemies of the fatherland”
Maduro offered no immediate response to Almagro’s offer. But he has labeled the OAS a puppet of Washington, and he accuses opposition activists of sowing chaos to plot a coup against him.
He warned on Saturday, during a speech marking independence day, that some of those detained would face a military trial and would be “severely” punished.
“Desperation, hatred, and fury thrive among the enemies of the fatherland,” said Maduro, describing the OAS’s inability to produce a statement on Venezuela as a victory for the country.
Demonstrators are holding rallies on an almost daily basis to demand Maduro’s resignation and new elections. Seventy-five people have died in the protests over the past three months.
At its annual general assembly in Mexico this week, the OAS failed to reach consensus on a resolution about Venezuela, where 75 people have died in three months of protests.
🇻🇪 A hooded demonstrator stands near a burning motorbike during an anti-government protest in Caracas. 📷
federicoparra</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AFP?src=hash">#AFP</a> <a href="https://t.co/twVBfB5u4A">pic.twitter.com/twVBfB5u4A</a></p>— Frédérique Geffard (fgeffardAFP) June 24, 2017