Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro fired his health minister after statistics showed infant deaths surging, as elderly protesters angry over medicine shortages planned fresh rallies Friday demanding the socialist leader quit.
The health ministry on Wednesday released data showing deaths of infants under the age of one soared by 30 percent in 2016 and deaths of women linked to childbirth by 65 percent.
The government replaced minister Antonieta Caporale on Thursday with Luis Lopez Chejade, the official journal said.
Wednesday's data referred to 2016, but Caporale took over as health minister only in January this year.
"Hospitals and protesters are complaining of severe shortages of medical supplies from an economic crisis that has fueled opposition calls for early elections," accoridng to AFP.
"Elected in 2013, Maduro is resisting pressure for an early vote, calling the crisis a U.S.-backed conspiracy," AFP reports.