Thousands clamour for Maduro to step down
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP):
Thousands of Venezuelans filled the streets on Wednesday accusing embattled President Nicolás Maduro of usurping power and joining the nation’s reinvigorated opposition movement in demanding that he step down as the country reels from a crushing economic crisis forcing millions to flee or go hungry.
Large crowds of protesters gathered in Caracas waving flags and chanting “Get out, Maduro!” in what was shaping up to be the largest demonstration since a wave of unrest that left more than 120 dead in 2017.
“Venezuela is reborn on the streets today, searching for freedom and democracy,” Juan Guaido, the 35-year-old opposition leader who has sprung into the limelight since taking the helm of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared on Twitter.
Pro-government demonstrators dressed in red in support of Maduro were also marching in the capital, at times crossing paths with opposition protesters and shouting “Sell outs!” and “Traitors!” National guardsmen launched tear gas at anti-government protesters in the middle-class neighbourhood of El Paraíso, but for the most part, the marches continued without conflict.
“Join us!” the protesters cried out to a line of officers wearing helmets and carrying shields. “You are also living this crisis!”
The protest is considered a crucial test for the opposition as it seeks to send a forceful message that Maduro no longer has the people’s backing and appeals to the military and the poor to shift loyalties that until recently, looked solidly behind the president.
The protests were called to coincide with a historic date for Venezuelans — the anniversary of the 1958 coup that overthrew military dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez.