Two killed amid massive anti-government marches in Venezuela

Two people were shot dead as opponents of President Nicolas Maduro flooded the streets of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities Wednesday, battling security forces in what's been dubbed the "mother of all marches" against the embattled socialist leader.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters made an unsuccessful attempt to march to downtown Caracas as security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd. Dozens even had to slide down a concrete embankment and into the Guaire River to escape the noxious fumes.

Carlos Romero, just three days away from his 18th birthday, was walking to play soccer with friends when he bumped into pro-government militias stalking a pocket of protesters, family spokesman Melvin Sojo told The Associated Press, based on the accounts of two people who rushed Romero to the hospital after he was hit by gunfire.

"This was supposed to be a happy moment but instead I came home to see my brother die," said Sojo, who grew up in the Romero home and returned Tuesday from Ecuador, where he had been living the past year.

In the western city of San Cristobal, a 23-year-old woman identified as Paola Ramirez was shot dead by similar groups, according to Mayor Patricia Gutierrez, who said the groups circled demonstrators on motorcycles as they were heading home from the demonstration.

The two killings bring to seven the death toll since protests began three weeks ago over the Supreme Court's decision to strip the opposition-controlled congress of its powers, a move that was later reversed but not before enraging the opposition and causing a storm of international criticism.

The Venezuelan opposition called for another day of protests Thursday. "We'll see each other tomorrow at the same place and same time because our fight for democracy doesn't end," former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said at an evening press conference to announce the opposition's next steps.

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