The Venezuelan opposition, consolidated in the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition, held a large protest in Caracas on Thursday to demand that Venezuela's election commission move ahead with a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro before the end of the year. Photo courtesy of Democratic Unity Roundtable
CARACAS, Venezuela, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- The Venezuelan opposition said more than 1 million people have flooded the streets of Caracas on Thursday while President Nicolas Maduro has vowed to revoke political immunity.
"I have ready the decree to lift the immunity of public office. Let no one use parliamentary immunity to attack peace," Maduro said Thursday. "Based on the emergency decree, I will level the immunity of all public offices."
The opposition has criticized Maduro's political immunity removal threat as a way to suppress the opposition -- particularly in the unicameral National Assembly, where the opposition has majority control.
The Venezuelan opposition's "Taking of Caracas" protest has been met with road blocks and metro station closures. Opposition members have called for peaceful protests and urged the regime not to use violence on protesters.
Venezuela's constitution prohibits the government from using weapons or toxic substances, such as tear gas, to repel peaceful protesters, but Maduro's Interior and Justice Minister Gen. Nestor Reverol -- who was indicted in the United States on cocaine trafficking charges -- recently said government intelligence suggests there could be acts of "violence and destabilization."
David Smolansky, mayor of Caracas' El Hatillo district, said more than 1 million Venezuelans have joined in the protest against Maduro's regime.
A coalition of 28 Venezuelan non-governmental organizations, including the Venezuelan Institute for Social and Political Studies, has urged Maduro's regime to not react violently if protesters remain peaceful.
"We remind the police and state security bodies, whose duty is not to interfere but to facilitate the free development of the demonstration ... the use of firearms and toxic gases in peaceful demonstrations is prohibited by [the Venezuelan constitution], in international treaties on human rights," the coalition said in a statement.
Though the president of Metro de Caracas said subway routes would operate normally on Thursday, the transport authority closed at least four stations in Caracas' Line 1, one of the city's most used routes.
The transport authority said it closed the stations "in defense of users, personnel and facilities" but the opposition has accused the agency, which operates under Maduro's Ministry of Transport and Public Works, of attempting to hinder the protest.
The opposition protest is being held to demand Venezuela's National Electoral Council move ahead with the process of holding a recall referendum against Maduro before the end of the year.
"There is our people walking to arrive to Caracas! There is the force of change dodging barricades and road blocks!" Henrique Capriles Radonski, governor of Venezuela's Miranda state and a key opposition leader, said in a statement. "Awaken Maduro, if he could sleep. It is all of Caracas mobilized for the recall! To have a true homeland!"
Maduro's administration has said the protest is a coup d'etat attempt facilitated by the United States.