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Young critics of Venezuela government put hope in elections

center_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Last year, Rafael Rico was covering his baby face with a vinegar-soaked rag and dodging tear gas canisters as he clashed with Venezuelan riot police.This week, the 23-year-old engineering student is canvassing on the resort island of Margarita as he campaigns to represent the South American country’s opposition coalition in upcoming legislative elections.Rico is the youngest of a crop of new candidates who raged in the streets against Venezuela’s socialist administration last spring, but now are putting their faith in the ballot box as the best way to force President Nicolas Maduro from power. More than a third of the candidates running in the opposition coalition’s primary elections on Sunday are younger than 40. Top Stories Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Comments   Share   “You have to protest, but you also have to vote,” Rico said, borrowing from his stump speech. “The repression and human rights violations that we saw in 2014 showed that just going into the streets without also winning elections doesn’t give you the results you need.”Last year’s sometimes bloody demonstrations against the country’s mounting economic chaos petered out after a government crackdown. But the problems young people protested — including severe shortages and the world’s highest inflation — have only worsened amid a plunge in oil prices. Oil revenues fund almost all of Venezuela’s government spending.The country’s opposition coalition, which holds a third of the legislature, now has a shot at dominating an election for the first time since the late President Hugo Chavez launched his socialist revolution 16 years ago. If the coalition wins, it’s expected to use its legislative power to mount a recall referendum against Maduro.Elections for the National Assembly are scheduled every five years and must be held by the year’s end. The head of elections said last week that this year’s contest will be in late November or early December. Polls show the opposition coalition would win if the vote were held today. Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to helplast_img read more