Venezuela govt. claims opposition has attacked hospital

Venezuela’s government has claimed that armed gangs, allegedly hired by the opposition, have attacked a maternity hospital, amid protests that continue against the government across the Latin American country.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez blamed the opposition for the attack, which she said occurred on Thursday night.

“I denounce before the international community that armed gangs hired by the opposition attacked a maternity hospital with 54 children,” Rodriguez tweeted.

She said President Nicolas Maduro had ordered an evacuation of the hospital but did not specify the hospital’s name or location.

The alleged attack on the hospital came after a day of unrest in the capital, Caracas, during which police clashed with protesters as thousands of marchers reached a vital freeway there.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters, who pelted them with stones and Molotov cocktails.

The demonstrators, who demand Maduro’s ouster, set fire to trash cans and tore down a billboard to barricade themselves in, while police fired water cannon at them and a helicopter hovered overhead.

The massive protests began three weeks ago after Venezuela’s Supreme Court stripped the opposition-controlled parliament of its powers. The move to seize the powers of the only lever of state authority not controlled by Maduro unleashed long-simmering anger and sparked the fiercest protests against him in three years.

That decision was, however, later overturned in the face of massive opposition.

The unrest has so far left eight people dead, including three on Wednesday, when hundreds of thousands of protesters had taken to the streets to protest against Maduro.

Clashes also erupted in the western city of San Cristobal, in the northwest, and Valencia, in central Venezuela.

The opposition has called for a “march of silence” in all parts of the country on Saturday and a national road blockage on Monday.

The public dissatisfaction with the president is based on a devastating economic crisis, which has left many Venezuelans struggling with severe shortages of food, medicine, and other basic goods, among other economic problems.

Maduro, however, claims the protests are incited by the Unites States to remove him from power.

He said at an official event on Thursday that the opposition had expressed readiness to begin political talks.  “Today,” he said, “they responded in four different ways that they were ready to begin talks.”

The opposition, however, says the only dialog with the government would be on calling elections.

Two-time opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles has blamed Maduro, the army, and the national guard for the violence.

“No one believes him [Maduro], however, about dialog, which the Venezuelans will do with their VOTE!” he tweeted recently.

Maduro has said he has authorized formal claims to be brought against Capriles for wrongly accusing the government of killing university student Paolo Ramirez in the restive Tachira State near Colombia on Wednesday.

Maduro, often calling his nemeses names, has described Capriles as “a piece of rubbish.” Capriles has responded by calling Maduro a “dictator” and a “mythomaniac.”

The government has barred Capriles from holding public office.

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