Venezuela death toll hits 27, protesters battle security forces

Venezuela's chief prosecutor on Tuesday denounced a wave of unrest that has killed 26 people, vowing to hold all those responsible accountable and calling on both sides of a heated political spectrum to "lower the tone of confrontation".

Demonstrations against President Maduro began almost a month ago and since then, 15 people have died around protests-including one National Guard sergeant-and 11 others in evening robberies, said the state prosecutor's office. In Caracas, thousands of protesters shut down the capital city's main highway to express their disgust with the increasingly embattled socialist administration of President Nicolas Maduro.

Protesters sprawled in lawn chairs, worked on math homework and played cards on main roads around Venezuela's cities Monday, joining in sit-ins to disrupt traffic as the latest slap at the socialist government.

The decision was later reversed amid a storm of worldwide criticism - and from Ortega Diaz herself. Ever since, the prosecutor once criticized by the opposition has become an unlikely bulwark against further government repression, showing little sympathy for abuses committed by security forces and protesters alike.

An expert on Venezuelan politics, with four books on the subject, the latest of which is International Mediation in Venezuela (with Francisco Diez, USIP press, 2011), she is now a Distinguished University Professor at Georgia State University, and former director of the Carter Center's Americas Program where she monitored Venezuelan elections and mediated conflicts in that country since 1998. Saab‏ said several others were injured, including some who are "between life and death". "We're simply warming up because the day will come that we are all coming to the street until this government goes", said Gladys Avariano, a 62-year-old lawyer, under an umbrella at the Caracas "sit-in".

The swell of protests is the most intense in the economically struggling country since two months of anti-government demonstrations in 2014 that resulted in dozens of deaths.

Political activists and Venezuelan media have reported more deaths, but those have not been confirmed.

The opposition, which blames Maduro, the army, and the national guard for the recent violence in the country, has called for an early presidential election.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez says President Nicolas Maduro will send a letter Thursday to the Washington-based OAS renouncing its membership in the hemispheric body.

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