Death toll rises as protests continue in Venezuela

A young demonstrator has died of gunshot wounds during ongoing anti-Maduro rallies across Venezuela, bringing the death toll to 48 as demonstrations enter their eighth week.

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against the government (Getty Images/AFP/F. Parra)

During Sunday’s rally in the western city of Valera, gunmen reportedly fired at demonstrators and hit several people, including an 18-year-old male and a 50-year-old woman.

“At that moment, [Edy Alejandro] Teran Aguilar received a bullet in the chest,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement. The 23-year-old was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital.

The mayor of a municipality in the eastern part of the capital, Caracas, said 46 people were injured in protests on Saturday. In the Caracas suburb of San Antonio Los Altos a youth was wounded by gunfire, according to the opposition governor of the state of Miranda.

Demonstrators protect themselves from tear gas during clashes with riot police during a protest against the Maduro government in Caracas, May 20. AFP PHOTO / FEDERICO PARRAProtesters struggled with tear gas in clashes with riot police during a protest in Caracas

Since the protests began on April 1, hundreds have been injured and 2,200 have been detained. Of those arrested, 161 have been jailed on the order of military courts, according to Foro Penal, a non-governmental monitor.

Venezuela’s opposition have blamed President Nicolas Maduro for the country’s wrecked economy that has led to dire shortages of the most basic of goods.

Authorities blocked an opposition push for a referendum in 2016, delayed state elections and are resisting calls to bring forward the next presidential election scheduled for late 2019.

Some 17 opposition parties have agreed to discuss the terms of a national dialogue with the government, although right-wing groups aligned with the Democratic Unity alliance have refused to cooperate.

Public burning

President Maduro slammed opposition protesters on Sunday for setting a man on fire during a demonstration.

“A person was set on fire, beaten up, stabbed… They nearly lynched him, just because he shouted out that he was a ‘Chavista,'” Maduro said – referring to the ruling socialist movement created by his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

About 100 people participating in anti-Maduro protests in east Caracas reportedly surrounded the man, doused him in gasoline and set him alight, witnesses told the news agency Reuters.

“Burning a person because he seems a Chavista is a hate crime and a crime against humanity,” Maduro said in his weekly TV broadcast.

“Growing insanity. A human being is set on fire at a ‘peaceful demonstration’ by the opposition in Caracas,” Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said on Twitter, posting a video of the incident.

The prosecutor’s office said it had opened an investigation.

Aquí video de guarimberos accionando armas de fuego artesanales en “protestas no-violentas” (sic) en Caracas Venezuela

Paranoia rules

Maduro believes protesters are plotting a coup against him with US help and are increasingly persecuting “Chavistas” at home and abroad. Last week, he compared the situation to the Nazi treatment of Jews.

“Venezuela is facing […] a coup movement that has turned into hatred and intolerance, very similar to Nazi fascism,” he reiterated on Sunday.

Maduro blamed “the leaders of groups of mercenaries” for the violence and said several of them were already in prison.

US President Donald Trump, Maduro said last week, has his hands “deeply penetrated in this conspiracy, which aims to take political control of Venezuela.”

Watch video00:32

More than 200,000 protesters march against Maduro

jbh/cmk (Reuters, AFP)

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Protests paralyze Venezuela

DW talked to Venezuelan journalist and photographer Ivan Reyes whose images highlight the stories of the people marching against the government.

DW: The protests against President Nicolas Maduro have been going for almost two months now. What is the mood in the crowd?

Ivan Reyes: The hope that the change is finally near gives everyone strength. People are angry and frustrated, and they say they will march as often as necessary to show Maduro that they won’t accept his form of governing anymore. But that rebellious spirit disappears once you hear the deafening sound of bullets and when the tear gas starts getting into your eyes.

Read: Pro-Maduro militia suppress Venezuela democracy demos

Every day, I see very emotional scenes. You know, those are not just young folks revolting against the system: Whole families, communities from universities and workplaces, organized groups, the elderly, and even people with disabilities come to the walkouts. The number of demonstrators is already quite big, you can hear them arguing whether they should march toward the presidential palace or confront the police in the streets, but they always unite in the end because they want the same thing – change.

Has anything changed in Venezuela yet?

The main goal – to remove the socialist government and install democracy – remains. I wouldn’t consider the recent protests to be a continuation of the 2014 riots, however. Unlike today, there was no opposition, and the events were rather random. What persists is the discontent with the current shape of the country that has been growing for several years. There have 15 mass protests in April and May alone, which is something unprecedented in the history of Venezuela.

Also, we are living in a true crisis right now – people weren’t dying from malnutrition or a lack of medication three years ago. You could have seen traditional media reporting from the streets, but nowadays the press is under pressure, and journalists don’t dare to be seen in the crowds.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested, and almost 40 have died so far in the protests. Doesn’t it discourage people from going out on the streets?

Watch video00:37

More protesters killed in Venezuela unrest

No, it actually makes them even more tenacious. You can feel the determination to resolve the situation once and for all; the lines are not as easily dispersed as they used to be. For instance, when people have to pull back, they only do so to reorganize, and then they return to the march again. But of course, fear is omnipresent because everyone has realized by now that the national police and the national guard are here not only to repress the crowd but also to hurt the people. The way they launch tear gas now can easily kill a person. But everyone is willing to resist; they withstand the shootings, the gas, and the attacks.

Read: Thousands of women march across Venezuela as political crisis deepens

However, it seems that the violence has been escalating on both sides recently especially since many masked groups took to the streets.

I believe the protests are quite peaceful, actually, and there is a desire for them to be non-violent, although that has become impossible. What I see every day is people with flags, banners, whistles, and hopes for a better tomorrow. But yes, some groups engage in clashes. They use stones and even make Molotov cocktails in order to match the governmental forces. It is a battle they can’t win, unfortunately – only the government has the resources to keep on fighting.

Why are the armed services so loyal to Maduro’s regime?

Some higher ranking officers get access to food, housing, vehicles, and even an above-average salary, although it is not very common. In reality, many who join the police or the national guard come from very poor environments, and they assume such jobs are a way out of their situation.

The political crisis in Venezuela is going hand in hand with the economic crisis. What does everyday life look like in Caracas?

People will do anything to survive. Some sell ice cream, water, cigars, or food on the streets, but the hunger is everywhere, and many people are reduced to having to dig through the trash to get some leftovers at least. Long lines form just to buy bread or get the so-called CLAP bags with various basic ingredients that state agencies distribute among the population, but those are not available to everyone either.

Read: 5 things to understand about oil-rich, cash-poor Venezuela

There are those who carry on, living their normal lives despite everything that’s happening, but they are not many today. Going to the movies or the theater has become an exercise in escaping the reality. Since the riots take place every day, the government shuts down streets, avenues, highways, and even the subway, which completely changes the dynamics of the whole society. As much as they don’t want to get involved in the protests, they end up being affected in one way or another.

Do you see an end to all this?

I don’t think the demonstrations will cease soon because I am not convinced Maduro is willing to resign. I’d say the actions on the streets will continue, but the opposition leaders should look for a new, innovative way to protest. Right now, they always end up the same – being dispersed on some highway or another venue.

The people are still motivated, nonetheless, they want the change. I think it’s a resistance fight on both sides. Let’s see which team gets tired first.

Ivan Reyes is a journalist working for Efecto Cocuyo, an independent Venezuelan newspaper.

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Venezuela death toll continues to rise as protests enter fourth week

At least two more people reportedly have died, taking the death toll to 23 since anti-government protests erupted across Venezuela at the beginning of April. Protesters have staged sit-ins on roads and highways.

Venezuela Caracas Demonstrationen (Getty Images/AFP/F. Parra)

At least two more people have died according to official sources as anti-government rallies across Venezuela once again turned violent on Monday.

Among those killed was a local government worker who was shot dead at a pro-government counter protest in the Andean state of Merida. Reports from the opposition party suggested that another person was killed during a rally in the western agricultural state of Barinas.

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Capriles: ‘The government is promoting the violence’

Opinion: Hope is stronger than fear in Venezuela

Several other demonstrators are believed to be seriously injured and “between life and death,” according to public defender Tarek William Saab.

Monday’s deaths take the total number of dead up to 23. On Sunday, Venezuela’s Interior Ministry reported that one demonstrator was killed at a pro-government rally after being hit on the head with a frozen water bottle thrown from a high-rise. During the early hours of Friday morning, 11 people were electrocuted while trying to climb an electric fence.

Venezuela, plagued by a political and economic crisis, has been hit by a series of violent protests this months, triggered by the government-loyal Supreme Court’s decision to strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its last vestiges of power.

Although the decision was later reversed amid a barrage of international condemnation, protestors view the move as part of President Nicolas Maduro’s plot to forge a  form of dictatorship.

The opposition has demanded fresh election and the release of jailed activists. However, the protests have taken place against the backdrop of a crippling economic crisis that driven people to anger and desperation.

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“Peaceful protests across the country will continue until Mr Maduro respects the constitution and ends his internal coup,” Henrique Capriles, the would-be opposition candidate who was disqualified from public office, tweeted on Monday. “If there is no answer from Maduro’s corrupt drug-trafficking leadership, at the end of the day we will announce further action.”

(1) El PLANTÓN y protesta pacífica del Pueblo venezolano en las calles es exigiendo respuesta de la narco corrupta cúpula madurista!

(2)Los venezolanos como establece nuestra Carta Magna (Art.333) tenemos el DEBER de colaborar en la restitución del hilo constitucional!

Highway rallies

Monday’s protests saw tens of thousands march along Caracas’ main highway, disrupting one of the main traffic arteries into the city.

The capital’s Francisco Fajardo highway was transformed into a plaza of sorts, as demonstrators sprawled in lawn chairs, enjoyed picnics and played cards. Protestor Juan Carlos Bautista told the Associated Press news agency that he passed the afternoon playing dominos. “We want to be free. I’m here fighting for my children and my children’s children,” he said.

Although the rally was reported to have been largely peaceful, a handful of protestors clad in bandanas launched stones at police, prompting authorities to fire tear gas into sections of the crowd.

Staged sit-ins also took place across all of Venezuela’s 23 states.

Venezuela Protest (Getty Images/AFP/F. Parra)Venezuelan opposition activists raise a road block across a Caracas avenue using bath tubs.

“In the morning they appear peaceful, in the afternoon they turn into terrorists and at night bandits and killers,” senior Socialist Party official Diosdado Cabello said of the anti-government protesters. “Let me tell them straight: we’re not going, Nicolas (Maduro) is not going.”

More than 1,400 people have been arrested throughout Venezuela since protests erupted in early April, according to the local rights group Penal Forum. Of those, 636 were still detained as of Monday.

dm/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Watch video01:07

Social media captures violent crackdown during Venezuela protests

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Venezuela opposition holds silent protest rally as campaign goes on

Venezuela’s opposition has held a march to honor the people who died in three weeks of protests against the government. The economic crisis is worsening.

Vemezuela Caracas stiller Marsch zum Gedenken der Opfer (Reuters/C. G. Rawlins)

Thousands of people dressed in white shirts walked in silence towards the headquarters of the Catholic archdiocese in Caracas on Saturday as they honored the 20 people who have died in three weeks of protests.

After heated negotiations with security forces blocking their way, the protesters were allowed to complete their march. Police fired tear gas to disperse a group of protesters trying to join the march but there were no reports of violence, deaths or injuries.

Vemezuela Caracas stiller Marsch zum Gedenken der Opfer (Reuters/C. G. Rawlins)Demonstrators dressed in white shirts to honor those who died

Three weeks of protests have seen riot police and pro-government vigilantes take on opposition protesters throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.

“We want free elections, we want to get rid of this corrupt government,” said Iomira Barrios, an environmental consultant who says she can no longer find work. “Right now people are willing to fight, because they have declared a dictatorship and we cannot allow it.”

Opposition to the government of President Nicolas Maduro has been growing, even among the poor who were the strongest supporters of his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chavez.

Economic woes 

Once generous social programs funded by high oil prices have been curtailed as the world oil price fell and the economy has spent three years in recession. Oil accounts for 95 percent of foreign-currency earnings.

There are shortages of basic goods and food, leading to long lines outside shops as people wait to buy what little there is available.

In its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) wrote “Venezuela remains mired in a deep economic crisis.” Unemployment has risen from 7.4 percent in 2015 to 25 percent this year and could rise to 28 percent next year.

Inflation may reach 720 percent this year, according to the IMF and could rise to 2,000 percent by 2018.

Opposition assembly leader writes to banks

The opposition, via National Assembly President Julio Borges, has written to leading international banks, including Deutsche Bank, warning them against supporting the Maduro government.

“The national government, through the central bank, is going to try to swap gold held as reserves for dollars to stay in power unconstitutionally,” said one letter sent Thursday to John Cryan, the
CEO of Deutsche Bank. “I have the obligation to warn you that by supporting such a gold swap you would be taking actions favoring a government that’s been recognized as dictatorial by the international community.”

General Motors closes plant

After 69 years in business in Venezuela, US car giant General Motors shut down its operations after authorities seized the plant and took its vehicles, the company announced last Thursday.

The factory was “unexpectedly taken,” according to a statement from GM. The company “strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights,” the Detroit-based automaker said in a statement.

Venezuela General Motors stoppt Produktion (picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. C. Hernandez)Workers at the GM plant in Valencia

The auto industry has followed the rest of the economy in its descent. In a nation of 30 million people, only 293 cars were sold in March, according to figures from Bloomberg. Ford still has a plant in Venezuela, although it is not operating. Toyota and Fiat Chrysler are still operating.

The GM takeover was the first nationalization of a major company’s facilities in more than two years. In 2014, household goods company Clorox halted its operations because of inflation and government-mandated price freezes. The government took over and opened up the Clorox sites again.

Watch video01:25

GM shuts Venezuela plant

 

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Venezuela calls ‘mother of all protests’ as opposition and government supporters rally

Three people are reported to have died as hundreds of thousands turned out to rally across Venezuela. More than 400 people have been arrested, and the opposition has called for protests to continue on Thursday.

Demonstrators clash with the police during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (Getty Images/AFP/F. Parra)

Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, and other cities on Wednesday, as the opposition vowed to keep pressure on leftist President Nicolas Maduro with more demonstrations planned for Thursday.

The rallies are the latest in a series of opposition protests gathering support around a number of issues. They range from a decision three weeks ago by the government-stacked Supreme Court to strip the opposition-controlled Congress of its last remaining powers after a year-long battle, to the dwindling supply of medicines and basic supplies, food shortages, triple-digit inflation and rampant crime.

Venezuela Protest Opposition Marsch Demo (Reuters/C.Veron)Demonstrators dressed to oppose, and support President Maduro

No official crowd estimates were released, but the opposition claimed up to 6 million people participated in demonstrations across the country. The protesters converged from 26 different places in the capital in an attempt to march to the Caracas Office of the Ombudsman, who is responsible for investigating complaints against any public authority. Protesters attempting to march along the same route were met in the past with security vehicles, tear gas and rubber bullets fired by riot police officers.

At least two protesters were shot and killed by police or paramilitary groups. A police officer was also killed. A hospital director confirmed the death of an 18-year-old student, Carlos Moreno, who was on his way to play soccer when shots were fired near groups of opposition and government supporters.  Authorities in the city of San Cristobal also reported that a 23-year-old woman was killed by gunfire after pro-government supporters circled protesters.

More than 400 people were arrested in Wednesday’s protests, authorities said. Unverified videos on social media showed police and pro-government militia violence, including shootings.

Despite the clashes between anti-government demonstrators and police, Venezuela’s opposition promised that protests would continue. “When millions took to the streets today, even more must go out tomorrow,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles said, announcing further protests for Thursday.

Maduro accused the opposition of inciting Wednesday’s violence and called for an election to “put conspirators, murderers and interventionist right-wingers in their place.”

Five other people have been killed since protests broke out earlier this month following the Supreme Court’s decision to strip Congress of its powers. The top court later reversed its own decision, but Maduro’s attempted power grab has emboldened the opposition.

Political timeline

The opposition has called for a timeline leading to delayed elections. They were backed by 11 Latin American countries who issued a joint statement this week calling on authorities to set a time frame for elections to “allow for a quick solution to the crisis that Venezuela is living through.”

Venezuela Opposition Marsch Protest Demo (Getty Images/C.Becerra)Opposition protesters gathered along Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas

In the statement, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay rejected the violence in Venezuela that led to the deaths of protesters.

Speaking on TV on Tuesday evening, Maduro accused the US State Department of trying to promote a military intervention and “direct aggression.”

The president signed orders late Tuesday activating the “green phase” of military plans to defend the South American country against what he described as US-backed attempts to sow chaos and overthrow him. He said authorities had rounded up “conspirators.”

A day earlier, in a US State Department statement titled “Non Violence and Accountability During Protests in Venezuela,” the US  government encouraged “demonstrators to express themselves non-violently.” It also reminded the Venezuela security forces “of their legal and constitutional responsibilities to protect, not prevent, peaceful demonstrations.”

sees large pro and anti-government demonstrations in Caracas marking independence day. Be on the lookout 4 our exclusive coverage

Maduro said he was expanding civilian militias created by his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, and giving each member a gun.

Venezuela’s economic woes are set to continue, according to the World Bank, which has forecast that the rate of economic growth in the country would be negative 3.1 percent in 2017. It was minus 12 percent in 2016. The bank forecast 0.6 percent growth for next year on the back of projected firmer oil prices – far below estimates for regional growth of about 2.5 percent for 2018.

Venezuela has, according to some estimates, the world’s largest oil reserves. However oil industry management has been criticized as ineffectual, with inadequate and outdated equipment.

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Last stand for Standing Rock

Yahoo News Photo Staff February 23, 2017

Last stand at Standing Rock

Raymond Kingfisher, 59, of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, sings during a march on the outskirts of the main opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., February 22, 2017. (Terray Sylvester/Reuters)

All but a few dozen of the last holdouts from a months-long mass protest against a proposed oil pipeline in North Dakota peacefully vacated their riverside camp as an eviction deadline passed on Wednesday.

“We’ve very firm that the camp is now closed,” Governor Doug Burgum, a Republican, told an evening news conference.

Following Wednesday’s exodus, Burgum estimated there were 25 to 50 protesters left. He said they were still free to leave voluntarily so long as they did not interfere with cleanup crews scheduled to enter the site at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

The encampment has stood since August on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property at the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, about 40 miles south of Bismarck, the state capital.

Protesters calling themselves “water protectors” have rallied there against plans to route the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the reservation, saying the project poses a threat to water resources and sacred tribal sites.

Dubbed the Oceti Sakowin camp, the site became a focal point for U.S. environmental activists and Native Americans expressing indigenous rights, drawing some 5,000 to 10,000 protesters at the height of the movement in early December.

Most have drifted since away, as tribal leaders urged people to leave due to harsh winter weather, while pressing their opposition to the pipeline in court. Roughly 300 demonstrators had remained until this week.

Protesters and police have clashed multiple times since August, with more than 700 arrests tallied.

On Wednesday authorities appeared intent on avoiding clashes, though 10 arrests were made as protesters confronted police in riot gear on a highway outside the camp entrance before the officers retreated around nightfall.

President Donald Trump has pushed for completion of the pipeline since he took office last month, signing an executive order that reversed an Obama administration decision and cleared the way for the $3.8 billion project to proceed.

Two tribes earlier this month lost a legal bid to halt construction. The pipeline is due to be complete and ready for oil by April 1, according to court documents filed Tuesday. (Reuters)

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Anti-G20 protesters descend on foreign ministers meeting in Bonn

Peaceful protests have been held in Bonn, Germany, close to the venue of the G20 foreign ministers. Demonstrators called for “international solidarity” in the face of warfare and growing right-wing sentiments.

Watch video01:02

Anti-G20 protests in Germany

As G20 foreign ministers met behind closed doors at the World Conference Center on Thursday evening, a small group of protesters from various movements and NGOs marched through nearby streets in the western German city of Bonn, chanting slogans such as “Break the power of the banks and companies!” and “Let’s hear it for international solidarity!”

Among them were members from the Network of the German Peace Movement, German leftist party Die Linke, the German Communist Party (DKP) and the Bonn Kurdistan Solidarity Committee.

“We’re here because we don’t believe that the G20 represents us,” Nils Jansen from the Bonn Youth Movement told DW.

“They represent big banks and companies … war politics and militaristic politics. And we refuse to be silent any longer.”

A main concern among protesters was the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and the involvement of G20 states, particularly in the Syria conflict.

Bonn Youth Movement member Nils Jansen Bonn Youth Movement member Nils Jansen was among those leading the march

“On the one hand you have some G20 member supporting different parties and Islamist, so-called rebels, who are in fact militants like al Qaeda and al Nusra. Then on the other, you have Russia, China and Iran, who are supporting [President Baschar] al Assad’s regime,” Jansen said.

“It’s a war of different superpowers – Russia, USA, Germany and NATO – which has been brought upon the Syrian people. So we demand that the G20 get their hands off of Syria.”

‘Murderous’ G20 policy

In remembrance of the civilians killed as a result of the involvement of some G20 states in Middle Eastern conflicts, some protesters fell to the ground to represent corpses during a minute’s silence.

“Warfare over resources and raw materials is the reason why more and more people are becoming refugees,” one protester told DW, while others shouted that G20 policy was “murderous.”

Deutschland G 20 Außenministertreffen in Bonn ProtestHalf-way through the march, demonstrators fell to the ground to represent deaths in the Middle East conflicts caused by G20 states’ involvement

Following the debut of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the G20 meeting, protest leaders over a sound system also warned against the recent increase in right-wing populism and the “Donald Trumps of Europe.”

“We have to stop a second Trump victory in Germany, and stop the AfD from succeeding,” one protester shouted from the designated vehicle. Germans are set to head to the polls on September 24, which could see the right-wing AfD (Alternative for Germany) enter the Bundestag – Germany’s lower house of parliament – for the first time.

Watch video00:48

G20 foreign ministers meet in Germany

‘Fortress Europe’

Addressing closures of EU borders to refugees, another protester, Jaob, said it was “really hypocritical if people complain about Trump building a wall, while here in Germany we are building ‘Fortress Europe.'”

“Thousands of refugees are being left to die in the Mediterranean,” he said as fellow demonstrators chanted: “Brick by brick, wall by wall. Make the fortress Europe fall!”

Deutschland G 20 Außenministertreffen in Bonn ProtestProtester Jaob told DW that he was “fed up with the system”

Anti-Trump sentiment still strong

Americans were also among the demonstrators at Thursday’s protest, saying it was yet another chance to make their voices heard against the Trump presidency.

A month into Trump’s four-year term in the White House, Leigh Redemer, a 31-year-old teacher from Ohio said she has so far been “completely disappointed, appalled by Trump and his administration.”

“I think it’s a really wonderful opportunity to express my disappointment to global leaders or at least to make a public protest of one particular aspect of the Trump admin, which is its inappropriate links to Russia.”

Deutschland G 20 Außenministertreffen in Bonn ProtestOhio-born Leigh Redemer finds common ground with a fellow anti-Trump supporter

Following his first face-to-face with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Tillerson told reporters that the United States stands ready to cooperate with Russia when it is in American interests, echoing US President Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric.

As the G20 ministers’ meeting continues on Friday, officials of leading industrialized and emerging economies are expected to discuss sustainable development goals, support for Africa, and how best to identify and prevent future crises. The meeting in Bonn is a lead-up to the group’s July summit of heads of state and government in Hamburg.

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