Venezuela’s Capital Braces for More Anti-Government Protests After 3 People Were Shot Dead in Demonstrations

A protester aims a Molotov cocktail at police on April 19. Venezuela’s political crisis has intensified since the government notified main opposition leader Henrique Capriles on April 7 that he had been banned from political activity for 15 years. This came during protests denouncing the Supreme Court rulings issued on March 29, which curbed the powers of the opposition-controlled legislature.

Opposition leaders again are calling for protests in Venezuela’s capital on Thursday, a day after three people were shot dead in demonstrations that have rocked the South American country following weeks of unrest.

The opposition, which accuses President Nicolas Maduro of creating a dictatorship, asked people to hit Caracas streets Thursday morning — where thousands gathered the day before in what activists dubbed “the mother of all marches.”

As they did Wednesday, opposition leaders are asking marchers to meet at 26 points throughout the city and converge on the office of the government’s top human rights official.

Protesters were gathering Thursday morning in east Caracas, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the demonstrations would attract the number of marchers seen Wednesday, which was a national holiday commemorating Venezuela’s struggle for independence from Spain.

“We have seen a slow morning, a slow buildup, perhaps because today is not a national holiday as it was yesterday,” journalist Stefano Pozzebon told CNN on Thursday from Caracas.

Tensions soared Wednesday as anti-Maduro demonstrators dodged tear gas canisters lobbed by police, and Maduro loyalists marched in a counter-protest.

At least three people were killed in shootings during Wednesday’s demonstrations across the country, officials and relatives said, bringing the death toll in protests since March 29 to at least nine.

Venezuela has been rocked by intermittent but violent protests since the Supreme Court dissolved an opposition-led parliament last month. The move was reversed days later, but demonstrations had already erupted.

Further fueling the protests: The government banned opposition leader Henrique Capriles from all political activity for 15 years on April 7.

The turmoil is set against an economic crisis in which unemployment is set to surpass 25%, and people have struggled for years with food and medical shortages and skyrocketing prices.

The economic crunch took another turn this week as the government seized a General Motors plant, prompting the auto giant to say it was halting operations in Venezuela.

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SOURCE: CNN, Jason Hanna and Ray Sanchez

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