Thousands march against Venezuelan president

Protesters rally against sky-high inflation and shortages of food in Caracas, demanding President Nicolas Maduro resign.

Thousands of protesters have marched in the Venezuelan capital banging pots and pans over shortages of food and demanding an end to President Nicolas Maduro’s term in office.

Demonstrators poured on to the streets of Caracas on Saturday rallying against sky-high inflation and shortages of food and consumer goods.

Opponents say Venezuela’s economic crisis is a consequence of 15 years of socialist policies, begun by Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez, who ruled from 1999 to 2013 before his death from cancer.

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“Maduro must step aside for Venezuela to be able to unite in a national reconstruction process,” opposition leader Maria Corina Machado, a deposed politician who was jailed after deadly riots last year said.

“The government needs to be changed urgently,” Machado argued, at what opposition activists called the “March of Empty Pots.”

“I am protesting because in my country there is nothing, no food, no nourishment, no medicine,” protester, Maria Carolina Nolia told the Associated Press news agency.

Maduro is facing a dismal 22-percent approval rating, and three quarters of the population oppose his government, recent polls show.

Venezuela was already mired in economic woes before oil prices began their recent slide, but the sharp downturn in crude prices has been especially punishing for a country that relies on oil for 96 percent of its foreign currency.

Following the drop in oil prices, Maduro has traveled in recent days to Algeria, China, Iran, Qatar, Russia and Saudi Arabia as he makes an urgent appeal for cash.

This week Maduro even floated the idea of discussing raising the local price of petrol. The price has not been raised since 1989. Then, a hike in petrol and transport costs helped trigger a deadly wave of protests, according to some analysts – as many as 2,000 people were killed.

In November, Caracas failed to convince the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), including top producer Saudi Arabia, to reduce production in order to halt the price drop.

Source: News Agencies