Venezuela protesters target Maduro, vow to keep up pressure

Cheryl Sanders
April 11, 2017

The protests come after Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ, in late March said it would assume the National Assembly's duties - a ruling it later reversed, particularly after Venezuela's chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, expressed "great concern" about the measure, which she said violated the Constitution.

Opposition supporters have been protesting a grinding economic crisis and an erosion of democracy under the leftist president, in the first sustained wave of anti-government demonstrations in three years.

The opposition is demanding a date for gubernatorial elections, meant to be held a year ago, and is seeking early presidential elections.

Mr Maduro has accused the opposition of stirring up unrest and conspiring with global actors to destabilise the country.

The president meanwhile travelled to communist Ally Cuba on Sunday for a meeting of foreign ministers from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a leftist Latin American bloc co-founded by Maduro's late mentor, Hugo Chavez.

"It's time to ask ourselves seriously and responsibly if civil disobedience, peaceful demonstrations, and fair complaints directed at national and global bodies are the valid and opportune path forward", the bishops said.

Socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello said opposition members who "use violence and terrorism to impose [themselves] on the majority who want peace" should face the consequences of the law.

"Enough with impunity", he wrote.

More than a dozen metro stations in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, have been closed ahead of an anti-government protest.

Police fired water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, who hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails. One day a small group of young protesters unsuccessfully tried to set fire to a Supreme Court office.

Opposition leaders said police launched gas canisters at the entrace to a hospital, forcing the evacuation of an infant. A degraded pyrotechnic charge propelling the cartridge could also lead to uncontrolled explosions, he said.

"The Bolivarian government stands by its commitment to guarantee the tranquility and social wellbeing of our people", he said in announcing the detentions.

According to the State Department, Capriles is a prominent, democratically-elected member of Venezuela's political opposition.

The European External Action Service issued a statement stressing that the Venezuelan people has the right to peacefully demonstrate and to see the political conflict immediately solved.

Popular singer Miguel Ignacio Mendoza, known as Nacho, was among those affected by tear gas in Caracas.

"The repression is not an invention of the media", he said, his eyes irritated by the gas.

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