Venezuela Protest Turns Violent

A demonstrator returns a tear gas during clashes with riot police in eastern Caracas on April 8.A demonstrator returns a tear gas during clashes with riot police in eastern Caracas on April 8.

Thousands of protesters clashed on Saturday for a fifth consecutive day with security forces in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.

Officers in riot gear blocked a highway as marchers tried to advance, chanting “Liberty, Liberty!” Protesters tossed rocks and returned tear gas canisters used against them, CNN reported.

The Venezuelan National Guard also used water tanks against the demonstrators as thousands of them marched from eastern Caracas, an opposition bastion, toward downtown, where most national government facilities are located.

Protesters are demanding the dismissal of all seven justices of the Venezuelan Supreme Court. The court issued a ruling on March 29 that outraged the government’s political opposition. It ruled that all powers vested under the legislative body, the Venezuelan National Assembly, be transferred to the court itself, which is stacked with government loyalists.

The court reversed its decision three days later after a series of violent protests. The opposition said the original decision made Venezuela a dictatorship because all three branches of government would be in the hands of the socialists.

The government’s decision on Friday to ban popular opposition leader Henrique Capriles from doing political work for 15 years has galvanized the opposition again.

Capriles, 44, is the governor of Miranda state and a two-time presidential candidate who has become the most vocal critic of the socialist government. He said on Saturday the government is again acting like a dictatorship with an unnecessary show of force against the protesters. Earlier this week, speaking in front of his Cabinet in an event televised on the government’s TV network, President Nicolas Maduro called the protesters “terrorists and vandals.”

The president said 30 people had been detained, but the Venezuelan human rights group Penal Forum reported on Saturday there had been 115 detentions since Tuesday.


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