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Unrest spreads in Venezuela ahead of national protest

Unrest spreads in Venezuela ahead of national protest

Anti-government protests in Venezuela raged for a second night, some of them in areas once-considered government strongholds, as the country’s opposition is planning a massive march Wednesday demanding the ouster of President Nicolás Maduro.

The Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict, which tracks protests, said that demonstrations had spread to at least 61 neighborhoods in Caracas late Tuesday and that at least one person had died.

Notably, the protests hit areas once considered government bulwarks in western Caracas, like the 23 de Enero and Petare neighborhoods. And that’s fueling expectations that Wednesday’s marches could be the largest since 2017.

Local media reported that protesters destroyed a statue of Hugo Chávez — the socialist firebrand and Maduro’s mentor — in the town of San Félix in eastern Venezuela.

The unrest comes as Washington, Colombia, Brazil and others in the international community say they no longer recognize Maduro’s rule and, instead, support the opposition controlled National Assembly.

On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence released a video promising to stand by the protesters until “democracy is restored and you reclaim your birthright of libertad.”

Maduro called Pence’s remarks “unacceptable” and ordered a “complete revision of our diplomatic relationship with the USA.” But the two nations haven’t swapped ambassadors since 2010.

The government will be holding its own rallies Wednesday, including one led by Maduro in the afternoon, raising the specter of partisan clashes.

National Assembly President Juan Guaidó on Wednesday urged his countrymen onto the streets to reject Maduro, who he accuses of “usurping” the presidency.

“Brothers and sisters, know that the weapon used by the usurper is violence,” he wrote on Twitter. “Ours on the other hand is the voice of millions of Venezuelans who will meet today on the streets, in peace for Venezuela.”

Sen. Marco Rubio also suggested that violence may be brewing. In a Tweet late Tuesday, the Florida Republican warned Venezuela’s intelligence service, SEBIN, to “reconsider the plan they have for [Wednesday] before it’s too late.”

“You are about to cross a line and trigger a response that believe me you are not prepared to face. You still have time to avoid this,” he wrote.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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