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Venezuela's Maduro blames mobile firm over protests

President Maduro has begun an investigation into a mobile service provider, claiming it supported protests against him. Demonstrations against his far-left government have continued almost unabated for weeks.

Caracas Venezuela Protest (Getty Images/F.Parra)

President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela announced on Thursday that he had launched an official inquiry into mobile phone company Movistar, claiming that the company was promoting the mass protests against his rule.

"I denounce (Movistar) and have asked for an investigation," said Maduro in a televised statement. "They joined the call for a coup against the country."

The president claims that Movistar sent out mass text messages telling its customers to go to what organizers called the "mother of all marches" in Caracas on Wednesday. Maduro claims that the company, a subsidiary of Spanish firm Telefonica SA, was bribed by opposition politicians.

The unrest continued unabated as Maduro made these claims, as there appeared to be no end in sight to three weeks of protests that have often turned violent. Eight people have died in the fierce clashes between demonstrators and police throughout the country's cities.

The public blames the far-left Maduro for widespread shortages of medicine, food, and basic necessities. The president responding with claims that the opposition was working in tandem with the United States to unseat him.

The oil-rich nation has seen its problems exacerbated by falling oil prices since 2014, and the crisis reached a breaking point on March 30 when Venezuela's Supreme Court took partial control of the legislature, the last part of government not controlled by Maduro.

The international community, particularly in Latin America, has raised concerns about the situation potentially boiling over into more sustained violence.

"We are concerned about the latest developments in Venezuela and urge that all efforts be made to lower tensions and prevent further clashes," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Watch video 02:25

Venezuelan protests turn deadly

es/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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