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As violence rages, Venezuela opposition makes desperate plea to military for dialogue

AFP-JIJI

Venezuela’s opposition Sunday urged the armed forces to consider dialogue, despite its loyalty to embattled President Nicolas Maduro in the country’s deadly political crisis.

“I am appealing to Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez to open the doors of a sincere debate in the armed forces,” said Julio Borges, the speaker of the National Assembly, the only opposition-led government body.

Opposition leaders believe Maduro and some of his supporters met this week with Padrino Lopez to rally support for his plan to convene a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.

“If (key supporters and) Maduro have the right to give a partisan argument to the military on the chaos Venezuela is going through, we ought to have that right as well,” Borges argued.

Elected in 2013, Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late long-time leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez, is resisting pressure for an early vote, calling the crisis the result of a U.S.-backed conspiracy. His opponents have branded him a dictator.

Protesters also oppose his plans to elect an assembly — and do it sidestepping the country’s political parties — to overhaul the constitution, dismissing it as a way to put off elections.

Increasingly violent near-daily protests that began April 1 have left a toll of 38 dead, and hundreds wounded and under arrest.

Dozens of mothers dressed in black were out on Caracas’s streets Sunday to mark a Mother’s Day of protest, hours after violent unrest in the towns of Caja Seca and Pueblo Llano.