Venezuela's Maduro blames sanctions on United States imperialism

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The Venezuelan prosecutor's office said on Thursday that a 23-year-old man was killed in western Merida state and a 16-year-old boy died in the poor Caracas neighbourhood of Petare during clashes on Wednesday. The deaths raised to 105 the number of people killed since April 1 in clashes with security forces.

Maduro said in a speech on Wednesday, after the White House imposed sanctions against 13 current and former Venezuelan officials.

Avianca Executive President Hernan Rincon says he laments the decision, "but our obligation is to guarantee the safety of the operation".

Maduro called the USA punishment "illegal, insolent and unprecedented".

"They try to question the humanity of the other side as a political tactic, and I think that ends up discouraging and dismaying people", said David Smilde, a Tulane University expert on Venezuela. "The government of the world?"

The ongoing political turmoil in the country has not affected Venezuela's strategic cooperation with Russian Federation, first and foremost in the gas and oil industry, Maduro told RT, adding that such cooperation is actually strengthening.

Venezuela's opposition has claimed 92% support for the national strike that it has called.

"No more dictatorship!" read signs on road barricades in eastern Caracas.

Maduro accused the USA of fomenting the unrest against him and his government, with the help of the conservative opposition.

"The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles", President Trump declared last week. They are against his attempt to rewrite the constitution through a constituent assembly whose members are set to be chosen Sunday in an election.

For months, violence has spiraled out of control as the struggle for food and medicine grows.

Opposition demonstrators burn a tire during an anti-government protest in Caracas, July 26, 2017.

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Thousands more loaded with heavy bags crossed the border into Colombia.

"We don't recognize any sanction", he said. "To be safe, we prefer to cross".

Representatives of Venezuela's opposition and leaders overseas have spoken out against the vote, saying it will erase the last remaining vestiges of democracy in the crisis-ridden country.

"We keep getting worse and worse off, with long lines and shortages".

"Pemon indigenous people from the Great Savanna on 48-hour strike Kumarakapay", tweeted Americo De Grazia, another National Assembly member.

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez appealed to the military, which is fiercely loyal to the president, to withdraw its support from Maduro's plan, which he called a "constitutional fraud" aimed at eliminating democratic rule.

Like the Trump administration, Venezuela's majority-backed opposition is demanding that Maduro scrap Sunday's election, which would create a congress with powers to rewrite the country's constitution and override all other institutions.

Venezuelans overwhelmingly rejected Maduro's plans in a non-binding referendum organized by the opposition last week, with 98.4 percent of voting against them.

The president's attorney general, Luisa Ortega, has also broken ranks with the government over the issue and become a vociferous opponent.

Inflation is projected to top 720 per cent. The existing Supreme Court has consistently backed Maduro and shot down all measures by the opposition-led National Assembly.

Further isolating Venezuela, Colombian airline Avianca [AVT_p.CN] followed some other worldwide carriers in suspending all flights to the country on Friday, citing "operational and security limitations".

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested more penalties could be coming unless Maduro's government changes course.