Death toll in Venezuela's political unrest rises to at least 24


Protesters sprawled in lawn chairs, worked on math homework and played cards on main roads around Venezuela's cities Monday, joining in sit-ins to disrupt traffic as the latest slap at the socialist government.

Venezuela has seen near-daily protests since the beginning of April, with opponents of President Nicolas Maduro demanding his ouster.

Demonstrations against President Maduro began almost a month ago and since then, 15 people have died around protests-including one National Guard sergeant-and 11 others in evening robberies, said the state prosecutor's office.

Most demonstrators rallied peacefully, but some masked protesters turned the rallies violent after they threw stones and clashed with police who fired back tear gas and rubber bullets.

The Organization of American States scheduled a special meeting of its permanent council Wednesday to discuss whether to call a meeting of the region's foreign ministers on the situation in Venezuela. The ruling was later partially reversed amid a storm of worldwide criticism.

The government's disqualification from public office of two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who would be an opposition favorite to replace Maduro, gave further impetus to the demonstrations.

In the majority of cases involving detentions tied to the unrest, police have not provided sufficient information to prosecute, so those arrested would have to be freed, Ortega Diaz said.

The latest protests began when the pro-government Supreme Court assumed the powers of the opposition-controlled congress.

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"Political leaders of Venezuela, immediate solutions are needed, putting aside any kind of personalities and opening doors to the most healthy and exemplary democratic game", he continued.

The opposition blames Maduro for the unraveling of the oil giant's once-booming economy, leaving the country with critical shortages of food, medicine and basic goods.

OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro says Venezuela has "deteriorated into a full-scale dictatorship" and the OAS should consider suspending Venezuela.

No country has ever withdrawn from the OAS since it was created in 1948 and it's not clear how complicated the process would be.

The especially anxious about Caracas' supply of the Igla-S, the Russian version of the U.S. -made Stinger missile.

Associated Press writer Christine Armario reported from Bogota, Colombia.

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