Police fire pepper spray at opposition march in Venezuela

Apr 06, 2017, 01:25
Police fire pepper spray at opposition march in Venezuela

A rival pro-government march on the National Assembly was also staged, underlying the tense and combustible nature of an ongoing political crisis driven by a collapsing economy and what the opposition says it Maduro's drive to implement a dictatorship.

A move by the Supreme Court last week to take over the legislature's powers sparked worldwide condemnation.

Police used pepper spray on National Assembly head Julio Borges, two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and rights activist Lilian Tintori, as they led protesters onto highways and jostled at barricades, witnesses said.

Riot police officers in Caracas were using water cannons, pepper spray and tear gas. The protest was the most violent since hundreds of thousands flooded the capital a year ago demanding the embattled president's ouster. "About 50-100 guys arrived on bike and started to shoot in the air", protester Bernardo Sanchez told local media, saying a bullet had lodged in his thigh.

"They want an intervention in Venezuela", said prisons ministry worker Juan Aponte, 34, who wore the red colours of the ruling Socialist Party.

Although it retracted that ruling over the weekend, the National Assembly remains powerless due to previous court judgments.

Opposition leaders have been staging small, targeted protests over the last few days that have resulted in some clashes with security forces and Maduro backers.

The head of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, condemned the crackdown "in the strongest terms", branding it "brutal repression".

Lopez added that the march aimed to "send a message that the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution is peaceful, it is not going to stop and it will continue leading the people". "We reject all acts of interventionism by the empire's lackeys", said Angelo Ribas, president of the Youth Institute in Caracas.

"From the north (the US), they give the order to the defeated fascist right of Venezuela to fill the streets with violence and blood", Maduro said on state TV.

The president made those statements, posted on Twitter, after OAS member countries resumed the extraordinary session on the situation in Venezuela, temporarily postponed by Bolivia, president of the council of that regional bloc.

The Supreme Court has since withdrawn the ruling, but the move drew criticism and condemnation from Venezuelan opposition politicians and global governments alike.

"The OAS has surpassed itself in aggression against Venezuela", Maduro said late on Monday.

Lawmakers passed one motion on Wednesday denouncing the "rupture" of Venezuela's constitution and another asking for the removal of Supreme Court judges.

Last week the Supreme Court voted to strip the opposition-led National Assembly of its last vestiges of power.

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