Venezuelans pour into Caracas streets in anti-Maduro protest

Venezuelans pour into Caracas streets in anti-Maduro protest

Venezuelans pour into Caracas streets in anti-Maduro protest

A ban on holding office would stop Capriles from running for president again in elections now scheduled for late 2018.

Venezuelan authorities on Friday banned a top opposition leader from public office for 15 years, the latest move in an increasingly tense power struggle in the crisis-hit country.

The state authority's move effectively bans Capriles, a lawyer of 44, from running against Maduro in a general election due next year.

While the widely condemned decision was quickly overturned, the opposition has stepped up street protests against Mr Maduro, even though such demonstrations have achieved little in the past.

An nearly daily dosage of strong-armed tactics by Maduro's government has energized the opposition leading up to Saturday's march.

Venezuelan national guards walk behind a burning blockade during clashes with demonstrators during an opposition rally in Caracas, Venezuela, April 6, 2017. The ban is all the more reason to mobilise, Capriles told supporters in Caracas, urging them onto the streets on Saturday to protest against a president accused of leading Venezuela to dictatorship by cracking down on dissent.

This latest political crisis was triggered last week when the Supreme Court issued a ruling that nullified congress. President Nicolas Maduro instructed the court to roll back that ruling a few days later, but opposition leaders said the attempt to invalidate a branch of power revealed the administration's true dictatorial nature.

Those protests have revived fears of broader unrest in Venezuela, where 43 people were killed during riots in 2014.

The opposition has since promised to purge institutions of government loyalists as they seek to put an end to almost two decades of socialist rule.

Among the opposition, he's considered the more moderate of leaders, having criticized a wave of protests in 2014 that led to scores of deaths.

He continued, "They said they were going to concentrate their protests along the Altamira highway, but they already had plans to reach the [Caracas city] centre to create violence".

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Addressing a crowd before Saturday's demonstration, which drew thousands, Capriles said "Nobody can disqualify the Venezuelan people".

Constable Mark Fischer said officials "are investigating the possible motivation behind the incident, such as a trial run", but Fischer said the man's age makes him believe that is not the case.

"We are looking for all of them - we've identified them all", he said of opposition activists who had scattered after skirmishing with police.

"The right wing's treason of our national interests is cause for indignation", said Maduro.

He said the main aim of the protests is to call for elections.

More than 100 dissidents are now imprisoned, including Leopoldo Lopez, another key opposition figure, who was also barred from office in 2008 and jailed in 2014 amid violent protests.

The Interior Ministry said that transit police officer had been arrested but denied opposition claims that Ortiz was taking part in any demonstration.

"However, it is a risky strategy that will probably backfire", Eurasia Group said in a report Friday.

More Associated Press reporting on Venezuela's problems can be found at https://www.ap.org/explore/venezuela-undone. If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

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