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Venezuelans shut down roads and highways in protest
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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Protesters sprawled in lawn chairs, worked on math homework and played cards on main roads around Venezuela Monday as part of a sit-in against the government.
In Caracas, thousands of protesters shut down the capital city's main highway to express their disgust with the increasingly embattled socialist administration of President Nicolas Maduro. They turned the road into a kind of public plaza, with protesters laying out picnics, reading books and reclining under umbrellas they brought to protect them from the blazing Caribbean sun.
Juan Carlos Bautista, 48, passed the afternoon playing dominos.
"We want to be free. I'm here fighting for my children and my children's children," he said.
Protesters in least a dozen other cities also staged sit-ins Monday, with some building barricades to stop traffic. In Caracas, protesters dragged concrete slabs, garbage and even a bathtub into the road.
The protest movement is entering its fourth week, and has become increasingly deadly.
On Sunday, a 21st death was linked to the unrest that began almost a month ago over the Supreme Court's decision to gut the opposition-controlled congress of its powers. The Interior Ministry said that Almelina Carrillo died in a hospital after being hit on the head by a frozen water bottle that someone threw from a high rise toward a pro-government rally last week.
The current unrest 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 huge masses of older protesters, who say they are fighting not for themselves, but for the younger generations.
In Caracas, retired professor Lisbeth Colina said Monday that she had chosen to participate in the sit-in for her grandchildren.
"The side that gives up is the side that loses," she said. "We must remain in the streets. I'm not scared of the repression they're throwing at us," she said.
Maduro on Sunday said he wouldn't give in to opponents and again urged them rejoin negotiations they broke off last December. But opposition leaders are rejecting calls for dialogue, and demanding immediate general elections.
"The government wants to use negotiations as a ploy to divide us, demobilize us, and win itself time," congress Vice President Freddy Guevara told reporters. "This protest is an exercise in resistance and a test of our conviction."