April 11 (UPI) -- Venezuelan opposition members, including National Assembly leader Julio Borges, traveled to the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Guard on Tuesday to demand it stop the "repression" of protesters after it was revealed security forces used expired tear gas canisters.
Borges and fellow opposition members, including National Assembly member Juan Andrés Mejía, handed over a communiqué to the Bolivarian National Guard, or GNB, in which the opposition-controlled legislature called on security forces to allow peaceful demonstrators to protest without facing intimidation or use of force from security officials.
The opposition members also said security forces are banned from using tear gas as Venezuela's Constitution prohibits the government from using weapons or toxic substances, such as tear gas, to repel peaceful protesters.
"The role of the armed forces is not to repress, but to allow the Constitution to reign in Venezuela, and therefore the country should have elections we deserve so we can have a country of freedom and not a country of violence, as we have today," Borges said outside of the GNB headquarters in Caracas' El Paraíso district on Tuesday.
Alfredo Romero, executive director of the Venezuelan Criminal Forum monitoring group, on Tuesday said that since protests began two weeks ago, security forces carried out 281 arrests. He said 134 people remain detained, eight of whom he said are considered political prisoners.
Mónica Krauter, a chemistry professor at the Simón Bolívar University, said the use of expired tear gas canisters could be lethal, particularly if used against those with asthma, hypertension, allergies, or those suffering cardiovascular, respiratory or pulmonary diseases.
The most recent protests in Venezuela began on March 30 after Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ, said it would assume the National Assembly's duties -- a ruling it later reversed. The opposition said the TSJ's move was akin to a coup d'etat in favor of Maduro's regime.
Venezuelans also protested after the Maduro regime banned Henrique Capriles Radonski, governor of Venezuela's Miranda state and a key opposition leader, from holding elective office for 15 years.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of State said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government "must stop silencing opposition voices."
"The United States views with grave concern the Venezuelan government's actions to bar Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles ... from participating in the country's public life for 15 years," the U.S. State Department said in a statement. "We urge President Maduro to reconsider the decision to bar Capriles and ensure Venezuelans can exercise their right to elect their representatives in free and fair elections in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution and consistent with international instruments."