Venezuela Cracks Down on Dissent

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Lawmakers move to strip opposition congressman of seat in what president’s adversaries call a campaign to silence dissent.

Lawmakers from Venezuela’s ruling party moved to strip an opposition congressman of his seat in what adversaries of President Nicolás Maduro ’s government said was part of an escalating campaign to silence dissent.

The legislative measure came as an antigovernment protest in the western city of San Cristobal turned violent, officials said, with police firing a shot that killed a 14-year-old boy.

Mr. Maduro condemned the killing and vowed to seek justice. “Those who are responsible are jailed,” Mr. Maduro said in a televised appearance, referring to a policeman who was charged.

The shooting came less than a month after the defense ministry issued a resolution allowing soldiers to use deadly force on demonstrators if the soldiers feel their lives are at risk—a rule that Citizen Control, a rights group here, called “dangerously vague.”

Julio Borges center

The move against the opposition congressman, Julio Borges, is an attempt by the president’s political allies, who control the National Assembly, to permanently remove him from the legislative body. The Supreme Court, widely believed to be allied with Mr. Maduro, is expected to approve the request, as it did in the case of another opposition leader last year.

Without his seat, Mr. Borges would lose his legislative immunity and could be investigated for what the government says is his involvement in a plot to overthrow the government. He denies the allegations.

“We are confronting a weak and highly unpopular government that is resorting to brute force and repression to distract from their failed policies,” said Mr. Borges, a founder of the First Justice party.

Caracas didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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