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Venezuela strike deepens domestic, foreign divisions

Venezuela strike deepens domestic, foreign divisions

The Venezuelan opposition launched a nationwide strike on Thursday which turned into sporadic violence in the capital, killing at least two people and injuring at least nine others.

The Venezuelan opposition launched a nationwide strike on Thursday which turned into sporadic violence in the capital, killing at least two people and injuring at least nine others.

The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable organized a general strike across the country, in a sign of protest against the government's efforts to rewrite the Constitution through its National Constituent Assembly, which is set for a vote on July 30.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday said that "a group of terrorists tried to attack the headquarters of Venezolana de Television (VTV)," for which he blamed Carlos Ocariz, mayor of the city of Sucre and an opposition leader.

"A group of terrorists tried to attack the headquarters of VTV, burned the nearby kiosk of Ipostel (postal service), but the workers went out to defend the television station," said Maduro during a public address.

Violent protests have rocked Venezuela in the past few months, leaving at least 97 dead.

On the same day, Isaias Medina, minister-counsellor of Venezuela's permanent mission to the UN, announced on Thursday that he had quit his post due to anger towards Maduro's human rights violations, and called on Maduro to resign as well.

"I cannot be part of a government that is systematically attacking protesters, that is not respecting the constitutional right of manifestation," he said in a video.

However, Venezuelan Ambassador to the UN Rafael Ramirez dismissed Medina's claims and said the man had been fired.

Ramirez wrote on Twitter that he condemned "the behaviour of Isaias Medina. We immediately relieved him of his duties. He does not represent us. He behaved in a dishonest manner."

The Venezuelan government on Thursday also got into a diplomatic spat with Mercosur, the regional trading bloc which recently suspended Venezuela's membership.

In the Argentinean city of Mendoza on Thursday, Mercosur members Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay discussed the crisis in Venezuela.

In a media interview, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said the group is "convinced of the need to bring attention in Mercosur to the situation Venezuela is going through."

He said Mercosur suspended Venezuela because it had not completed its integration process. "There is a sanction pending, which could include exclusion," he said.

Earlier in the week, Venezuela announced that it would boycott the Mendoza summit, with the government stating it rejected "the ongoing arbitrary and biased decisions against the rights" of Venezuela.

In a statement, Caracas called Mercosur's stance "alarming" and said it was "in the service of a hostile policy against Venezuela."

Venezuela's foreign troubles did not only come from Mercosur as Mexico also asked it to drop its plans to rewrite the Constitution through a National Constituent Assembly.

In a diplomatic message, the Mexican foreign ministry made "a respectful and brotherly call to the government of President Nicolas Maduro for it to suspend ... the National Constituent Assembly and open the door to a negotiation to resolve the severe democratic crisis Venezuela is going through."

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