Caracas (AFP) – Venezuela erupted in a fifth day of violent protests in a week Monday, as President Nicolas Maduro traveled to Cuba seeking support from fellow leftist leaders at a regional gathering.
“This is a battle of resistance. We will see who gets tired first: us of fighting, or them of repressing,” said the deputy speaker of the opposition-majority congress, Freddy Guevara.
The streets of Caracas and several other Venezuelan cities have been the scene of running battles in recent days, with police deploying water cannons and firing tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, who hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails.
– ‘Mother of all marches’ –
His popularity, already pummeled by the three-year recession, sank further last week when he and his allies sought to tighten their grip with two Supreme Court rulings that stripped the legislature’s power.
The court later reversed the rulings amid an outcry.
That blocks Capriles, who narrowly lost the 2013 presidential election to Maduro, from running against him next year.
The opposition is planning what Guevara called the “mother of all protest marches” on April 19 against Maduro.
– Protesters want elections, food –
Guevara called the president a “liar.”
Protester Alejandro Navas, a law student, said he was in the streets to demand elections at every level, including presidential.
“We want elections, not because Maduro feels like it, but because Venezuela needs them,” he said.
Fellow demonstrator Carolina Moreno, a 39-year-old unemployed woman, said she was simply protesting for food.
“They give you one miserable bag of food a month,” she told AFP — a reference to the government’s subsidized food program for poor neighborhoods.
– Rallying allies –
But the group’s influence has waned along with that of Venezuela, whose economy has been devastated by the drop in global oil prices since 2014.
The European Union piled the latest international pressure on Venezuela on Monday, raising alarm over the “ongoing escalation of tensions and violent confrontations.”
The secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro — a Maduro critic — also took his latest shot at the president.
“For the stability of this region, Venezuela needs a legitimate government,” he said during a visit to Brazil.