Venezuela's year of protests and turmoil

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A year of turmoil in Venezuela
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A year of turmoil in Venezuela
A protestor holds a national flag while standing in front of a fire burning at the entrance of a building housing the magistracy of the Supreme Court of Justice and a bank branch, during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, June 12, 2017. Protesters angry at the pro-government Supreme Court's ruling attacked a branch of the court with petrol bombs. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "As had happened before, security forces from inside the building repelled the attack, but this time the clashes were more intense. The demonstrators looted and burned a bank branch in the same building, which was later engulfed in smoke and flames. By the end of the day, several protesters were injured and detained." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Opposition lawmaker Carlos Paparoni is hit by jets of water during riots at a march to the state ombudsman's office in Caracas, Venezuela, May 29, 2017. A group of young Venezuelan lawmakers has risen to prominence on the violent front line of anti-government marches that have shaken the South American country for three months, bringing 75 deaths. On the streets daily leading demonstrators, pushing at security barricades and sometimes picking up teargas canisters to hurl back at police and soldiers, the energetic National Assembly members are heroes to many opposition supporters. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "I remember clearly how instants after I spotted Paparoni standing in front of 'The Whale', the common name of the water cannon armoured cars, he was flying through the air due to the unstoppable power of the water, as if he was a feather. Fellow protesters had to drag him out of the place, because from where I was, he seemed to have been unconscious." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A member of the riot security forces points a gun through the fence of an air force base at David Jose Vallenilla, who was fatally injured during clashes at a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 22, 2017. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "Once again, protesters clashed with security forces in front of an air base during an opposition rally in Caracas. In a matter of seconds, a demonstrator standing in a gap in the fence of the base, jumped down as a group of military men carrying long firearms approached from inside. Vallenilla, who was crouched down on the highway covered by the fence, stood up at just a few feet from the soldier, who began shooting. He fell to the ground, and immediately got to his feet to escape, as another activist wrapped in the Venezuelan flag and carrying a flimsy wooden shield, tried to give him cover and also came under fire. Fellow protesters gathered round Vallenilla to drag him away, so I rushed in and by then he looked very badly injured. Vallenilla died later in hospital." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Riot security forces clash with demonstrators as a motorcycle is set on fire during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in San Cristobal, Venezuela, May 29, 2017. Carlos Eduardo Ramirez: "Security forces arrived to disperse demonstrators that already had burned two taxis and a bus, throwing tear gas and pellets and the demonstrators' response was to throw molotov cocktails and one of those petrol bombs reached a National Guard member, setting him and the motorbike on fire." REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Riot security forces detain a demonstrator during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 28, 2017. Rock-throwing Venezuelans braved tear gas and rainstorms, blocking streets in protest against a legislative super-body to be elected two days later that critics call an attempt by President Nicolas Maduro to create a dictatorship. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "After many hours of very violent clashes between the demonstrators and security forces, the National Guard in an attempt to end the situation, suddenly advanced their line very quickly, even going beyond where I and other photographers were taking cover. All the protesters who did not react fast enough to leave the place were detained." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH Opposition lawmaker Luis Stefanelli (L) gestures next to fellow opposition lawmaker Leonardo Regnault after a group of government supporters burst into Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly during a session, in Caracas, Venezuela, July 5, 2017. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "Rowdy groups of government supporters busted into Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly. There were several clashes happening at the same time, so I tried to follow a small group of attackers as they pushed their way through the main building. By the time I got into the building, they had already finished hitting people and were on their way out, leaving behind an opposition lawmaker covered in blood. I quickly went over to the politician, Leonardo Regnault, whose grey suit was spattered in blood. He was up against an ornate wooden door, clearly in a state of shock. Another opposition lawmaker, Luis Stefanelli, was standing next to him, hands up in a sign of surrender and pleading with the attackers to stop the beating. Minutes later, the attackers were expelled and I thought everything was over, but no. Government supporters remained outside and kept us trapped inside. The injured lawmaker, Regnault, was treated at the nurse's office in the congress and then evacuated in an ambulance next to the others injured. Eventually, around dusk, state security forces pushed back the government supporters and created a path out for us, more than eight hours after I first arrived." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Flames erupt as clashes break out while the Constituent Assembly election is being carried out in Caracas, Venezuela, July 30, 2017. Deadly protests rocked Venezuela as opposition voters boycotted an election for a constitutional super-body that unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro vowed would begin a 'new era of combat' in the crisis-stricken nation. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "Suddenly, a bomb exploded in the capital during an opposition protest and wounded seven police officers in what seemed to be the spread of more aggressive tactics. We were taking photos from close by but the police panicked and chased everyone away, firing teargas, rubber bullets and pellets." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
An injured opposition supporter is helped by volunteer members of a primary care response team during clashes with riot security forces at a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 22, 2017. Ivan Alvarado: "This image was taken next to an airforce base where another protestor was fatally injured that day. I don't know how this man was injured, I first saw him as the first aid volunteers carried him out from the midst of the tear gas. You can really see the pain in his expression as he cries out. After I took the image the motorbike speeded off down the highway." REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A demonstrators attends a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 19, 2017. Ivan Alvarado: "I was under the highway photographing some protestors who had surrounded a woman they accused of stealing a phone from someone. I turned around to check what was happening behind me and saw this man appearing from the shadows to see what was going on. The white on his face is salt, which the protestors said helped to reduce the effects of the tear gas." REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Supporters of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro demonstrate outside Palacio Federal Legislativo with a picture of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez during the National Constituent Assembly's first session, in Caracas, Venezuela, August 4, 2017. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "After winning a majority in the National Assembly in 2015, lawmakers of the opposition removed all images of the late President Hugo Chavez from the main building and gardens. This act was seen by Chavez's supporters as a huge offence and they promised that someday he would be returned and honoured again. As soon as the Government won the National Constituent Assembly election, the very day of the installation ceremony, elected members and their supporters gathered outside the building and brought images of Chavez back." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A demonstrator throws back a tear gas grenade while clashing with riot police during the so-called "mother of all marches" against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, April 19, 2017. Maduro said that beneath a peaceful facade, the protests were little more than opposition efforts to foment a coup to end socialism in Venezuela. The opposition said he has morphed into a dictator and accused his government of using armed civilians to spread violence and fear. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A protester dressed in a jacket with the national colours stands next to a burning roadblock during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 26, 2017. Ivan Alvarado: "The street was open and empty a little while before I took this picture. The man wearing the Venezuelan flag jacket brought the tyres to the middle of the highway and set them alight. For me the highway in this image acts like a imaginary border that divides two realities in Caracas - behind me was the chaos and tear gas at the rally and across the other side of the road a quiet scene of the houses stacked up on the hill." REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Demonstrators use a giant slingshot while clashing with security forces during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 20, 2017. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets on Saturday to mark 50 days of protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, with unrest gaining momentum despite a rising death toll and chaotic scenes of nighttime looting. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "While the days of battle in the street passed, it was evident that little by little, 'The Resistance', the group that was always at the forefront of opposition protests, had developed new strategies to confront the sophisticated riot control equipment of the police." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Demonstrators ride on a truck while rallying against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 29, 2017. Ivan Alvarado: "This was one of the last really big rallies, and the number of protestors coming out on the streets started to decrease. The protesters used trucks to make barricades and block the streets in the Altamira area. This truck was being driven quite slowly, and I shot the image at a slow shutter speed panning to capture the sense of movement of the truck. I like the man standing on the top of the truck who looks like he is urging the group onto action." REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Riot security forces take up positions while clashing with demonstrators rallying against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 28, 2017. Venezuelans have been protesting against Maduro to demand him to respect the opposition-led Congress and resolve chronic food and medicine shortages that have fuelled malnutrition and health problems. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "Security forces, often angry and frustrated, began firing directly at protesters." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Venezuela's opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been granted house arrest after more than three years in jail, salutes supporters, in Caracas, Venezuela, July 8, 2017. Marco Bello: "Lopez was transferred from the Ramo Verde military jail in the middle of the night and the news broke really early in the morning. A lot of people, including opposition supporters, politicians and media, were waiting for him to show up. We all knew that he would, despite the fact that he had been forbidden to do so. After several hours, Freddy Guevara, lawmaker of the MUD and right hand man for Lopez, came out to read a statement and while he was doing so, Lopez appeared over a wall of his Caracas house, waving the Venezuelan flag and punching the air. The sea of supporters cheered and cried upon seeing him." REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH Paramedics try to help a demonstrator who was fatally injured during riots at a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 7, 2017. The government said Neomar Lander died when a homemade mortar exploded in his hands while hundreds of youths faced off with National Guard troops in the Venezuelan capital. Opposition lawmakers, however, said he was killed by a tear gas canister fired straight at him. The state prosecutor's office announced a probe, without giving details. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "In the middle of the street, both paramedics and fellow demonstrators tried to resuscitate him, while everyone around desperately cried and shouted. It was just a few minutes, but with the intensity of the moment, it felt like hours. I saw his fellow protesters crying like little boys only minutes after fighting with security forces like warriors." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. TEMPLATE OUT
A demonstrator jumps away from a jet of water released from a riot security forces vehicle during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 26, 2017. Carlos Barria: "Weeks into protests against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, I landed in Caracas to reinforce our Reuters team coving the chaos. The protests had fallen into a routine. Every day around 10am - 11am protesters gathered around Altamira Plaza and started to march towards the downtown area where a cluster of government buildings are located. Protesters walked along a main highway and riot police would intercept them to contain the crowd. Clashes erupted when they met, with tear gas and water cannons were used to disperse the protesters. On May 26, a young student walked towards a water cannon wearing a backpack, as if he had just come out of class. As he got closer, the riot police turned the water canon directly on him. Then, the student began jumping and dodging, trying to avoid the blast of water. He looked almost as if he were dancing in the rain." REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Demonstrators fall on the ground after being hit by a riot police armoured vehicle while clashing with the riot police during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 3, 2017. Marco Bello: "In that moment, demonstrators attacked a couple of National Guards when they fell off a bike during clashes. Then another National Guard driving an armoured vehicle ran over the motorbike, trying to intimidate demonstrators and to rescue their fellow guards. The reaction of the crowd was to attack, throwing rocks and molotov cocktails and trying to jump over the truck. In the midst of confrontation and confusion, the driver drove back hitting people." REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Demonstrators take cover during riots at a march to the state ombudsman's office in Caracas, Venezuela, May 29, 2017. Drawing inspiration from the Ukraine's 2013-14 revolt, Venezuela's young protesters are donning Viking-like shields in battles with security forces and eagerly watching a film on the Kiev uprising. The protesters use the shields to form walls, or even beat on them in unison, mimicking the Norsemen's battle cry. Fellow demonstrators cheer as the self-styled 'Resistance' members link arms to walk to the front lines and face off with National Guard troops and police. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Demonstrators scuffle with security forces during an opposition rally in Caracas, Venezuela, April 4, 2017. Venezuelan security forces quelled masked protesters with tear gas, water cannons and pepper spray in Caracas after blocking an opposition rally against socialist President Nicolas Maduro. The clashes began after authorities closed subway stations, set up checkpoints and cordoned off a square where opponents had planned their latest protest against the government and the crippling economic crisis. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "For me that was the day that made a difference, never before had I seen the protesters and police clashing men-to-men and struggling back and forward. From then, the strategy of the police changed and they never faced the protesters so close again." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH A man who was set on fire by people accusing him of stealing during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro runs amidst opposition supporters in Caracas, Venezuela, May 20, 2017. Marco Bello: "I spotted a man running in front of me as a group of protesters, most of them hooded and with makeshift shields, were chasing him so I followed them. Some 100 meters down the street, the protesters caught the man and surrounded him. When I walked up and went through the circle of people to take pictures, someone had already poured gasoline over the man and set him on fire. The government said that the man was set on fire for being "chavista" (a follower of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez), but all I heard throughout was that he was being accused of trying to steal from a woman. I didn't hear anyone accusing him of being a pro-government infiltrator. The mob was crazy, you cannot reason with them, they do not think. Later, when things calmed down, I thought, 'This is mad'. I was just taking pictures and thinking about the technical aspect of my shooting. It's how I deal with shocking situations that are happening in front of me. Orlando Figuera, 22, passed away two weeks later." REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo TEMPLATE OUT . VENEZUELA OUT. SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Opposition supporters clash with riot security forces while rallying against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2017. Protesters were demanding elections to kick out the socialist government that they accused of wrecking the economy and turning Venezuela into a dictatorship. Maduro, the successor to late leader Hugo Chavez, said his foes were seeking a violent coup. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "The image brings to life the disparity in strength between the protesters and security forces. The shield-bearer protects the protagonist, who clutches a stone as he prepares to counterattack, unaware the power of the water cannon is flexing the traffic sign as if it were a sheet of paper." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Volunteer members of a primary care response team, huddle together during clashes with security forces at a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, April 26, 2017. In Caracas, around 120 medicine students, doctors, and volunteers have revived a primary care response team first created during 2014's bout of anti-government protests. While they wear white helmets with a green cross, none wear flak jackets and some resort to wearing goggles to protect themselves from tear gas. Their equipment has nearly all been donated or bought by the volunteers themselves, and they've had to create makeshift neck braces from shoes, belts, and hats. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Volunteer members of a primary care response team help a child during a rally against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 24, 2017. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "In their attempt to go beyond the blockade of the police, demonstrators changed the route taking some alternate streets. That caused clashes with the security forces to start in the middle of a residential area and many people who were not taking part in the protest, were trapped between the stones and the tear gas. In the middle of the chaos, someone shouted, 'A boy, a boy!' so I ran and when I arrived to the place, a group of volunteers were helping this crying and disoriented boy." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A demonstrator is detained at a rally during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 27, 2017. Ueslei Marcelino: "As the young protestor realised that he was being arrested he began to shout his name. I think that he hoped he could warn his relatives through people who were there and maybe through the press". REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A demonstrator prepares petrol bombs during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 26, 2017. Millions participated in a 24-hour shutdown, leaving businesses closed, families behind doors, and streets barricaded or empty across swathes of Venezuela. From dawn of that day, neighbours gathered in some parts of Caracas to block roads with rubbish, stones and tape, while cafes remained shut. There was still, however, a trickle of people on their way to work. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Demonstrators march during the so-called "mother of all marches" against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, April 19, 2017. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "That day was one of the biggest rallies up to then. There were thousands of people trying to find their way to the office of the state ombudsman after gathering in more than two dozen points around Caracas. But as in previous rallies, they were blocked by the National Guard. Waving the country's yellow, blue and red flag and shouting 'No more dictatorship' and 'Maduro out,' demonstrators clogged a stretch of the main highway in Caracas. I remember the desperation of the people trying to escape the tear gas and not having space to run because there were so many." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A demonstrator shouts slogans in front of police officers during a women's march to protest against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela May 6, 2017. The women's marches, which took place in most major cities around the country, were the latest in five weeks of sustained protests against Maduro. In Caracas, marchers sang the national anthem and shouted 'We want elections!'. They were halted at various points by lines of policewomen and National Guard troops with armoured cars. Carlos Garcia Rawlins: "Unlike most of the previous protests, after many hours the protesters decided to leave and there were no violent clashes." REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo SEARCH "POY VENEZUELA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
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CARACAS, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Even by the volatile and violent standards of recent times in Venezuela, 2017 was an exceptional year, a “perfect storm” of political and economic crisis.

Going into a fourth year of crippling recession, Venezuela’s 30 million people found themselves skipping meals, suffering shortages of basic foods and medicines, jostling in lines for ever-scarcer subsidized goods, unable to keep up with dizzying inflation rates, and emigrating in ever larger numbers.

In unprecedented scenes for the once-prosperous OPEC nation, some citizens survived only by scavenging through garbage.

Not surprisingly in that context, President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling Socialists – the inheritors of Hugo Chavez’s “21st century revolution” - - lost popularity on the street, and the opposition coalition sensed a chance to unseat them.

The tipping point came in March when the pro-Maduro Supreme Court essentially took over functions of the opposition-led National Assembly. Though the controversial ruling was later modified, it was a trigger and rallying cry for the opposition, which began a campaign of street protests that ran from April to July.

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets across Venezuela, decrying economic hardship, demanding a presidential election, urging a foreign humanitarian aid corridor, and seeking freedom for scores of jailed activists.

Slogans that read “Maduro, murderer!” and “Maduro, dictator!” began appearing on roads and walls around the country. Though the majority of protesters were peaceful, youths wearing masks and brandishing homemade Viking-style shields started turning up at the front of rallies to taunt security forces.

When police and National Guard soldiers blocked marches, youths threw Molotov cocktails and stones. The security forces quickly escalated tactics, routinely turning water-cannons on the protesters and firing teargas into crowds.

Guns appeared on the streets, and on several occasions security officials were caught on camera firing directly at demonstrators. Police were targeted with homemade explosives. Opposition supporters burned one man alive.

The deaths, injuries and arrests mounted. Over the chaotic months, at least 125 people died, thousands were injured and thousands were jailed.

Global opinion hardened against Maduro. Amid the extraordinary daily events, gangs burst into the National Assembly and beat up opposition lawmakers. The nation’s best-known jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, was released from prison and placed on home arrest to the joy of his supporters, then taken back to jail, then allowed home again, all in a matter of days.

Venezuelans grew accustomed to navigating around barricades and burning streets as they tried to get to school and work. Some days, the country virtually shut down.

By the end of July, many opposition supporters feared for their lives and protest numbers dwindled. Maduro said he was defeating a U.S.-backed coup attempt and authorities held an election, which the opposition boycotted, for an all-powerful Constituent Assembly charged with imposing order on the country.

Having failed to block the Constituent Assembly, the protests fizzled out, leaving opposition supporters nursing their wounds and planning their next moves.

They decided to tackle Maduro at the ballot-box in regional elections in October, but that backfired badly when they lost most of the governorships despite polls showing they would win. The opposition alleged fraud, but their complaints did not get traction and Maduro cemented his authority.

In November, Venezuela said it planned to renegotiate its entire foreign debt, adding another dimension to the deepening national crisis.

 (Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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