CARACAS: Elderly protesters braved pepper spray in scuffles with riot police on Friday (Saturday in Manila) as they marched in the latest anti-government protests in Venezuela. With wheelchairs and walking sticks or on their feet shouting and waving their fists, some 2,000 demonstrators challenged police who blocked their way in central Caracas and fired pepper spray to deter them. Defying calls for early elections, President Nicolas Maduro also rallied elderly supporters, who yelled slogans in support of him and his late predecessor Hugo Chavez. The demo drew attention to the suffering of Venezuelans, particularly the elderly, in an economic crisis that has caused shortages of food and medicine in the oil-rich country. 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. Cases of malaria also rose by 76 percent to more than 240,000, even though the disease was said to have been eradicated in Venezuela.