Caracas, Venezuela, Jul 17, 2017 / 01:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Armed civilians who support the Venezuelan regime opened fire against a large crowd of protestors who were participating in a symbolic referendum in Caracas on Sunday. The incident forced hundreds to seek refuge inside Our Lady of Mount Carmel church where they stayed until the local archbishop Cardinal Jorje Urosa Savino mediated their safe exit. One person died from gunshot wounds and several others were injured.
Swaths of locals who oppose the current leadership called for a “consultation of the people” on July 16 to protest President Nicolas Maduro's plans to rewrite the country's constitution on July 30. Some 7 million people participated in Sunday's protest.
In the wake of Nicolas Maduro succeeding former socialist president Hugo Chavez after the latter died from cancer in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Poor economic policies, including strict price controls, coupled with high inflation rates, have resulted in a severe lack of basic necessities such as toilet paper, milk, flour, diapers and medicines. Venezuela's socialist government is widely blamed for the crisis.
Since 2003, price controls on some 160 products, including cooking oil, soap and flour, have meant that while they are affordable, they fly off store shelves only to be resold on the black market at much higher rates. The Venezuelan government is known to be among the most corrupt in Latin America, and violent crime in the country has spiked since Maduro took office.
On July 16, Cardinal Urosa had celebrated Mass in the church located in the Catia section of Caracas. The incident took place following the service. In concluding the Angelus prayer this Sunday at the Vatican, Pope Francis said he is keeping the people of Venezuela in his prayers.