Tens of thousands of Venezuelans march against government

Posted April 20, 2017

Venezuela braced for rival demonstrations Wednesday for and against President Nicolas Maduro, whose moves to tighten his grip on power have triggered deadly unrest and escalated the country's political and economic crisis.

A senior Cuban official is warning foreign countries against meddling in the internal affairs of Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is facing down mass protests. The 44-year-old governor, who has run for president twice, said the government was again acting like a dictatorship.

Rocks and petrol bombs from protesters are being met with rubber bullets and tear gas by authorities across the country.

The protests have been relatively small so far, with turnout in the thousands.

"Tomorrow Venezuela will be in the streets, peacefully, and it is the moment for the armed forces to demonstrate that they are with the constitution and with the people", he told reporters.

Maduro was expected to address the counter march of government supporters later Wednesday, which is a holiday celebrating Venezuela's declaration of independence from Spain two centuries ago.

"We were on a motorbike and they were following us, shooting", her boyfriend said.

Maduro's camp vowed not to be outdone by the opposition.

"The whole of Caracas will be held by the revolutionary forces", said lawmaker Diosdado Cabello, one of the president's most powerful allies.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement Tuesday warning that the "international community" would join in any Venezuelan response to the "criminal repression of peaceful democratic activity".

The opposition has accused Maduro of letting state forces and gangs of armed thugs violently repress demonstrators as he resists opposition pressure for him to quit.

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A man holds a poster reading "I don't want to live in fear anymore" during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on April 19, 2017.

"If the people are on the streets, it's there where they must remain to defend peace", Maduro said.

"The Zamora Plan is a strategic and operational plan that activates the defense of the nation in case of threats to the internal order", Retired Major General Cliver Alcala told AFP.

"It is a constitutional right to call for peaceful protests, and they should not put the physical safety of protesters at risk", she said in a statement on Twitter.

Non-government rights group Provea said the woman died "in the context of the demonstrations".

"We have to protest because this country is dying of hunger said Alexis Mendoza, a 53-year-old administrator marching in the Caracas neighbourhood of El Paraiso".

"By that, I mean delinquents, gangs that act with total impunity and intimidate citizens, with power to shoot and make arrests".

Whether by coup or oil sabotage or terrorism or economic warfare, USA imperialism continues to fund, organize and encourage an internal opposition, as well as seek its right-wing allies in the OAS and other governments to interfere in Venezuela's internal affairs.

As has become common in recent weeks on protest days, Venezuelan authorities will close 27 metro stations and likely set up checkpoints to slow entry to the city.

The two killings bring to seven the death toll since protests began three weeks ago over the Supreme Court's decision to strip the opposition-controlled congress of its last remaining powers, a move that was later reversed but not before enraging the opposition and causing a storm of global criticism.

Five people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the ensuing protests as riot police clashed with demonstrators.