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First Look Venezuelans stage sit-in on roads to protest government

Thousands shut down the main highway in Caracas to express their anger with the increasingly embattled administration of President Nicolas Maduro.

REUTERS/Marco Bello

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.
Thousands shut down the main highway in Caracas to express their anger with the increasingly embattled administration of President Nicolas Maduro. They turned the road into a kind of public plaza, with protesters settling in for picnics, reading books and reclining under umbrellas they brought to protect against the blazing Caribbean sun.
In the provinces, protests turned deadly. The public prosecutor announced that 54-year-old Renzo Rodriguez was killed by a gunshot to the chest Monday at a protest in the plains state of Barinas. In the mountain town of Merida, state worker Jesus Sulbaran was fatally shot in the neck at a pro-government rally. In addition, five people were injured at the Merida protest, Venezuela ombudsman Tarek William Saab said.
The two killings raised to 23 the number of deaths linked to unrest that began almost a month ago over the Supreme Court's decision to gut the opposition-controlled congress of its powers.
The Caracas gathering was largely peaceful, though some protesters wrapped bandanas around their faces and threw stones at police, prompting state security forces to release a cloud of tear gas.
Juan Carlos Bautista passed the afternoon playing dominos.
"We want to be free. I'm here fighting for my children and my children's children," he said.
The current wave of protests is the most intense the economically struggling country has seen since two months of anti-government protests in 2014 that left dozens dead. But while those protests were led by young people who built flaming barricades in the street, this month's movement is attracting masses of older protesters, who say they are fighting not for themselves, but for the younger generations.
Protesters in at least a dozen other cities staged sit-ins, with some building barricades to stop traffic. In Caracas, protesters dragged concrete slabs, garbage and even a bathtub into the road.
Retired professor Lisbeth Colina said she decided to participate in the sit-in for her grandchildren.