Twelve People Killed in Venezuela in Overnight Violence

Most of the deaths took place in El Valle, a working class district near Caracas' biggest military base where opposition leaders say 13 people were hit with an electrical current while trying to loot a bakery protected by an electric fence.

"It was like a war", said Mr Carlos Yanez, a resident of El Valle, where officials said 11 people died. The statement Toner released mentioned nothing of the sort, and was focused on non-violence and accountability in Venezuela, reminding the Venezuelan government and security forces of their duty to protect peaceful protests, not prevent them-also declaring that if the state continued on this path of gross oppression, those responsible will all be held accountable by the Venezuelan people and the global community.

Tensions and violence in Venezuela continue to rise as protesters rally against the presidency of Nicolas Maduro.

"This is the moment", said Raquel Belfort, a 42-year-old protester in wealthier eastern Caracas on Thursday, sporting a hat in the yellow, blue and red colors of the Venezuelan flag. It wasn't clear who shot him and there was no immediate comment from authorities. In videos posted on social media, people screamed as gunshots were fired into dark streets and looters broke store windows.

Protests have been roiling Venezuela on an nearly daily basis since the pro-government Supreme Court stripped congress of its last powers three weeks ago, a decision later reversed amid a storm of worldwide rebuke.

The opposition called for protesters to march in silence to the Catholic Church's episcopal seats nationwide in a show of condemnation of Maduro's government.

General Motors stopped operations in Venezuela after its only plant there was illegally seized by authorities, the automaker said in a statement.

Ruling Socialist Party officials say the demonstrations, in which protesters throw rocks at police and block streets with burning debris, are violent disruptions of public order meant to overthrow the government. Across the country, clashes have been intense as protests grow in size and fervour.

Protesters blame Maduro for an economic crisis marked by severe shortages of food, medicine and basic goods.

On Thursday, Maduro said the opposition was ready to begin dialogue, but his opponents denied the claim, saying the only way forward is to call elections.

The country's economic crisis has hurt many other USA companies, including food makers and pharmaceutical firms.

But the government hasn't backed down.

However, the socialist government has accused ideological adversaries in the U.S. of supporting the protests. Rights group Penal Forum said more than 500 people were arrested in relation to Wednesday's protest and 334 remained in detention.

"Protests will need to grow and persist over the coming weeks to force a political transition", Eurasia analyst Risa Grais-Targow said in a note on Thursday.

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