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June 27, 2017

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Venezuelans bang pots, pans in rally against president Maduro

CARACAS--Armed with cooking pots in a potent symbol of Venezuela's chronic food shortages, several thousand people took to the streets of Caracas Saturday in the latest rally against President Nicolas Maduro.

The protests, which fell on International Women's Day, consisted mostly of women who noisily clanged their cookware to show discontent at scarce basic goods and a violent crime crisis they say has embittered daily life.

"There is nothing, nothing, nothing!" read a placard carried by one protester fed up with stores that regularly run out of provisions as simple and crucial as toilet paper — despite the nation's vast oil wealth.

The rally was called by the country's most prominent opposition leader, two-time presidential election runner-up Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro by a whisker in the April 2013 election.

"We are marching over shortages that this government has left us with," Capriles told AFP as he accompanied his supporters for about 500 meters along the heavily guarded route.

"They are turning their backs on the problems."

For more than a month, demonstrators have complained about chronic shortages of food staples such as bread, sugar, milk and butter.

Venezuelans are also seething over the country's runaway crime and murder rate, high inflation of 56 percent and the arrests of protesters.

"I can't find milk, butter, diapers, flour, sugar or rice," said Alexandra Fernandez, a 39-year-old Caracas housewife. "I can't go out in the street because it's just not safe."

The rally was bound for the Food Ministry but protesters were prevented from making it that far by the presence of armed men on motorcycles, whom the opposition accuse of being pro-government paramilitaries.

Protests were also held in several other cities including Maracaibo, San Cristobal, Valencia, Puerto Ordaz and Porlamar. Local television did not broadcast any images of the marches.

'Right to protest'

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