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Venezuela rally supports jailed opposition leader

June 8, 2014

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Thousands of Venezuelans who oppose their country’s socialist-led government rallied peacefully in the capital Sunday to protest the continued detention of an opposition leader and to call for an early presidential election.

Anti-government activists massed to voice support for hard-line opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been held in a military prison since being arrested in February on charges of fomenting violence as a result of the initial protests. A judge ordered last week that Lopez proceed to trial.

Those at Sunday’s protest also renewed their call for President Nicolas Maduro to leave office and for Venezuela to hold a new presidential election.

Venezuela’s constitution allows for an early presidential election if the president should resign. It also allows such a ballot if a leader is ruled physically or mentally incapacitated by the Supreme Court or dies in office, as happened last year with Hugo Chavez, who had anointed Maduro as his choice to take over the presidency.

During the rally in east Caracas, leaders of the student movement that has spearheaded the anti-government demonstrations this year called for a new protest on June 24.

The anti-Maduro movement has lost steam in recent weeks, but demonstrations still crop up across Venezuela. The protests, which have seen 42 deaths and 873 injuries, are fed by anger over Venezuela’s 59 percent inflation rate, shortages of basic goods and a high crime rate.

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