Venezuelan Lawmaker Attacked Amid Opposition Protests for Recallby
Congressman Borges claims attack was by government supporters
Oppostion pledging to protest until referendum moves forward
A prominent Venezuelan lawmaker was injured in an attack Thursday as the country’s opposition continues a wave of protests seeking to drive President Nicolas Maduro from office.
Congressman Julio Borges, chief of the Justice First party, was assaulted as dozens lawmakers protested at Venezuela’s electoral council, or CNE, in downtown Caracas. Speaking at a news conference after the demonstration, a visibly bloodied Borges said he was attacked by pro-government supporters who were armed with pipes and stones.
The clash comes as Maduro’s opponents have doubled down on their efforts to oust the president from power before his term ends in 2019. Led by two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles -- a fellow party member of Borges -- the opposition has staged a slew of nationwide demonstrations in recent weeks, demanding authorities activate a recall referendum against Maduro’s rule.
“Venezuelans want a response -- we don’t want the response to be violence,” Capriles said in a webcast after the protest.
Infuriated by triple-digit inflation, rampant crime and shortages of basic foodstuffs, the opposition said almost 2 million Venezuelans signed a petition calling for the referendum process.
The CNE officially began the verification last month. However, the opposition accuses the embattled president of intentionally stalling to avoid early elections, potentially ending 17 years of socialist rule in the South American nation. Maduro has denounced the initiative as a “coup” sponsored by his political foes, and has repeatedly said the referendum is not in the cards this year.
The standoff has further fueled tensions in the country, which has seen a rash of looting and protests over the foods shortages and shaky public services. And while the opposition rallying calls have so far received a tepid response, Maduro’s opponents have pledged to stay in the streets until the government moves forward.
“These blows they give us today give us strength and inspiration to keep on fighting,” Borges said at the news conference.