Women take on the fight against Maduro

Venezuelan opposition activists taking part in a march in Caracas on Saturday aimed at keeping pressure on President Nicolas Maduro, whose authority is being increasingly challenged by protests and deadly unrest. Some women flashed their breasts in a
Venezuelan opposition activists taking part in a march in Caracas on Saturday aimed at keeping pressure on President Nicolas Maduro, whose authority is being increasingly challenged by protests and deadly unrest. Some women flashed their breasts in a pacifist move.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CARACAS • Thousands of women dressed in white marched in Venezuela's capital on Saturday to keep pressure on President Nicolas Maduro, whose authority is being increasingly challenged by protests and deadly unrest.

Led by opposition leaders, lawmakers and Ms Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, the crowd carried flowers and placards denouncing "repression".

Police and soldiers initially prevented it from reaching the interior ministry. But the women eventually made it to the Interior and Justice ministries.

"We are not going to be off the streets until we have set Venezuela free," conservative opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said.

"We beg the armed forces: Don't open fire on unarmed people."

Some women flashed their breasts in a pacifist move as some alongside Ms Machado waved posters reading: "We have no firearms; just tits."

Similar anti-Maduro rallies took place in other cities, including San Cristobal and Aragua, where police fired tear-gas canisters against marchers.

Protests on Saturday night in Los Nuevos Teques, on the outskirts of the capital, and Barquisimeto in the country's west descended into clashes between demonstrators and the military. It was not immediately known if there were casualties.

More protests were set for yesterday, with musicians and other celebrities marching to remember the dead.

The demonstrations were the latest in more than a month of anti-government protests, many of which have been countered by pro-Maduro crowds and security forces.

The death toll since April - when the protests intensified after Mr Maduro's administration and the courts stepped up efforts to undermine the opposition - is at least 36, according to prosecutors, with hundreds more injured.

The last death in Venezuela's unrest, of a 22-year-old man, occurred on Friday during looting in impoverished Venezuelan cities hardest hit by a worsening economic crisis.

In Valencia, where he died, some areas looked like disaster zones, with bars on shop windows bent and windows broken.

Demonstrators blame Mr Maduro for the country's plight and shortages of food and medicine. They are demanding elections to remove the leftist president.

Mr Maduro, backed by the Venezuelan military, is resisting. He and the opposition have accused each other of using armed groups to sow violence.

The President has started a process to rewrite the Constitution enacted under his late predecessor and mentor, Mr Hugo Chavez.

The opposition and many protesters say his real aim is to dodge elections.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2017, with the headline 'Women take on the fight against Maduro'. Print Edition | Subscribe