Anti-Maduro protesters block roads, stage sit-ins

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On Monday, thousands of Venezuelans turned out in several cities around the country to stage a "Big National Sit-in", with the opposition calling on supporters to peacefully protest against the government of Nicolas Maduro, against the "fraud" of the recently-convened constitutional assembly and in defense of the prevailing Constitution. Hundreds more have been injured in near-daily demonstrations by the opposition that frequently end with state security unleashing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets at protesters.

Luis Alviarez, 18, was hit in the chest during clashes with police in the western state of Tachira.

In front of the protesters stood a line of officers equipped with bulletproof vests, visored helmets and plastic shields to protect from the rocks and fecal "puputovs" that some demonstrators threw their way, the Associated Press reported.

The nationwide anti-government demonstrations launched 45 days ago have turned violent in some cases, with the toll now standing at 39 dead, hundreds injured and more than 2,000 people arrested. One was in critical condition after being shot in the head, authorities said. In the state of Lara west of Caracas, investigators were dispatched after three people were run over by a vehicle at a protest.

A 17-year-old boy and two men died in Venezuela after being shot during anti-government protests, prosecutors said Tuesday, bringing to 42 the number of people killed in six weeks of unrest.

Venezuela has been gripped by soaring inflation and severe shortages of basic food and medical supplies, as its economy slips into ruin.

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Global pressure on the troubled South American nation is continuing to increase, with the Organization of American States voting Monday to hold a rare foreign ministers' meeting later this month to discuss Venezuela's political crisis.

The latest protests in Venezuela broke out when the Supreme Court issued rulings that stripped the opposition controlled National Assembly of its powers. More than three dozen people have been killed, including a national guardsman and a police officer. Maduro contends the OAS is meddling in Venezuela's domestic affairs, infringing on its sovereignty and trying to remove him from power. Demonstrators assembled a giant rosary with balloons hanging from a Caracas highway overpass.

"We are against this fraudulent process", Capriles said on his radio broadcast.

Since launching protests against Maduro in early April, Venezuela's opposition has sought to vary tactics by staging silent and candle-lit marches, for instance, and rallies for women, musicians and medics.

European Union foreign ministers said in a statement Monday that people's rights "must be respected, including the right to peacefully demonstrate".

It urged "the release of jailed political opponents", after Maduro imprisoned leading opposition figures. The opposition maintains state security and civilian-armed pro-government groups known as "colectivos" are responsible for the bloodshed.

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