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Pregnant woman and soldier killed in Venezuela violence

CARACAS, Venezuela--A pregnant woman shot in the head and a National Guard soldier fired on as he tried to clear a roadway are the latest fatalities in violence tied to anti-government protests in Venezuela, authorities said Monday.

The head of Venezuela's congress, meanwhile, said a top opposition politician had lost her seat and is no longer immune from prosecution for allegedly fomenting violence in the anti-government protests.

The woman who was killed, 28-year-old Adriana Urquiola, died Sunday night in Guaicaipuro, said the mayor of the municipality just outside the capital of Caracas.

Five months pregnant, Urquiola was shot after she left a bus that was stuck in traffic because of a barricade built by anti-government protesters. She had begun walking toward the road block but didn't appear to have been participating in the protest. It was unclear when she was fired upon.

The National Guard member, Sgt. Miguel Antonio Parra, died Monday during a street demonstration in Merida, said the southwestern city's mayor, Carlos Garcia. The opposition politician said Parra was shot when he and two other National Guard soldiers were trying to clear the roadways and were confronted by protesters.

A series of protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro began five weeks ago, less than a year after Maduro succeeded the late Hugo Chavez.

At least 32 people have died in the subsequent violence.

Political fallout from the protests continued.

Diosado Cabello, who heads the Venezuelan congress, said opposition lawmaker Maria Corina Machado had violated the constitution by addressing the Organization of American States last week at the invitation of Panama, which ceded its seat at the Washington-based group so she could provide regional diplomats with a firsthand account of the unrest.

Maduro referred to Machado as “ex-congresswoman” on Saturday, a few days after arresting two opposition mayors for allegedly conspiring with the U.S. to topple his 11-month-old administration.

Machado was in Lima, Peru, on Monday attending a conference organized by the International Foundation for Liberty.

“I know very well what my duties and rights are, and I'll keep fighting and working as a deputy of the National Assembly during these terrible hours through which Venezuela is passing,” she told reporters.

She added that Cabello's actions “give us more strength and more reasons to continue the fight.” She said she intends to return to Venezuela as soon as possible.

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Venezuelan opposition deputy Maria Corina Machado, center, speaks to the press as she attends a seminar on democracy in Latin America in Lima, Peru on Monday, March 24. The President of Venezuela's national Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, said Monday that Machado lost her status of deputy after she attempted to speak during the Organization of American States meeting on Friday 21.

(AFP)

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