Nicolas Maduro Venezuelan protesters clash with police at rally

Protesters hurling rocks clashed with police firing tear gas Saturday in Venezuela's fourth demonstration in a week against President Nicolas Maduro and his government.

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Demonstrators against Nicolas Maduro's government are seen amid a tear gas cloud during clashes with riot police in Caracas on April 8, 2017 play

Demonstrators against Nicolas Maduro's government are seen amid a tear gas cloud during clashes with riot police in Caracas on April 8, 2017

(AFP)
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Protesters hurling rocks clashed with police firing tear gas Saturday in Venezuela's fourth demonstration in a week against President Nicolas Maduro and his government.

This latest rally, scheduled earlier in the week, was marked by anger over a ruling from the leftist government banning opposition leader Henrique Capriles from office for 15 years. Several thousand people attended the demonstration.

Capriles narrowly lost the 2013 presidential election that brought Maduro to power following the death of his mentor Hugo Chavez -- father of Venezuela's "socialist revolution."

The government move, which the 44-year-old Capriles announced on Friday, effectively prevents him from running against Maduro in next year's general election.

Saturday's violence broke out when protesters gathered in the east of the city changed course at Capriles's request and headed downtown toward the government ombudsman's office.

Other government ministries are located there, and support for Maduro is strong among downtown residents.

Demonstrators against Nicolas Maduro's government gather at Chacao municipality, east of Caracas on April 8, 2017 play

Demonstrators against Nicolas Maduro's government gather at Chacao municipality, east of Caracas on April 8, 2017

(AFP)

Police fired tear gas at these demonstrators, and they fought back by throwing rocks, AFP reporters observed.

"They received us with gas and rubber bullets. They insist on siding with the dictatorship but we are going to keep moving forward," said opposition lawmaker Juan Andres Mejia.

"Product of tyranny"

 

Capriles appeared energized by the protests.

"He who laughs last, laughs best! We'll see you on the streets of Venezuela @nicolasmaduro. There will be no rest," Capriles promised on Twitter.

Capriles was also one of the leaders of mass demonstrations earlier this week against Maduro that led to clashes with police. One protester died.

"This thing that they just did to Capriles is the product of tyranny," said Adel Rincones, 61, who wore the uniform of Venezuela's Olympic team.

"These people do whatever they want. Capriles is much bigger than them," said Rincones, who clutched a sign that read "Venezuela is wounded in the heart with hunger, misery, corruption, dictatorship."

Others at the rally held pictures of Capriles.

Demonstrators against Nicolas Maduro's government gather at Chacao municipality, east of Caracas on April 8, 2017 play

Demonstrators against Nicolas Maduro's government gather at Chacao municipality, east of Caracas on April 8, 2017

(AFP)

State comptroller Manuel Galindo imposed the ban due to alleged "administrative irregularities" by Capriles in his job as governor of the northern state of Miranda.

Capriles said that he would appeal the decision and stay in his job as governor, which he has held since 2008.

Venezuela's political crisis intensified last week when the Supreme Court issued rulings curbing the powers of the opposition-controlled legislature.

The court has consistently ruled in Maduro's favor since the opposition majority took its seats in the National Assembly legislature in January 2016.

It drew international criticism for last week's rulings, which seized the assembly's powers and revoked lawmakers' immunity from prosecution.

Opposition intensifies

The court reversed the rulings days later, but the opposition intensified its protests, prompting police to fire tear gas at one rally.

The opposition then came up with the idea of seeking the dismissal of the Supreme Court's justices. But the ombudsman's office said this was not possible.

A demonstrator against Nicolas Maduro's government returns a tear gas during clashes with riot police at eastern Caracas on April 8, 2017 play

A demonstrator against Nicolas Maduro's government returns a tear gas during clashes with riot police at eastern Caracas on April 8, 2017

(AFP)

Capriles can appeal against his sanction within two weeks to the comptroller and within six months to the Supreme Court.

The collapse in prices for Venezuela's crucial oil exports has sapped the country's revenues.

Ordinary Venezuelans are suffering from shortages of food, medicine and basic goods along with a surge in violent crime.

The opposition blames Maduro for the economic crisis. He says it is due to a capitalist conspiracy backed by the United States.

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