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Venezuelan opposition holds protest 'against dictatorship'

By Andrew V. Pestano
A member of the Popular Will opposition party shows tear gas canisters shot by Venezuelan security forces in the Zulia state. The Venezuelan opposition is holding protests nationwide against President Nicolas Maduro's socialist regime. Photo courtesy of Popular Will Zulia
A member of the Popular Will opposition party shows tear gas canisters shot by Venezuelan security forces in the Zulia state. The Venezuelan opposition is holding protests nationwide against President Nicolas Maduro's socialist regime. Photo courtesy of Popular Will Zulia

April 10 (UPI) -- Venezuelan officials shut down dozens of subway stations and bus routes Monday ahead of an opposition protest in Caracas, where some clashes have occurred.

The protest in Caracas, operating under the slogan "Without Rest Against the Dictatorship," is in the area of Chacaíto as part of anti-government demonstrations that began on March 30 throughout Venezuela. One person has died, dozens have been wounded and hundreds have been arrested amid the demonstrations, Venezuelan news outlets reported.

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Ahead of the protest, transportation authorities in Caracas closed 18 subway stations and 20 bus routes for the "protection of users, personnel and facilities."

Venezuelan security forces also shut down access to Caracas on highways, opposition members said.

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"Members and citizens denounce once again interruption of vehicular access on routes of entrance to Caracas by Venezuelan National Guard and Bolivarian National Police," the opposition-controlled National Assembly said in a statement

Venezuelan security forces clashed in Chacaíto on a highway shut down and occupied by protesters. Officers fired tear gas and some protesters threw the tear gas canisters back.

"They repress against our people who are being peaceful in the streets of Caracas demanding freedom and democracy," National Assembly opposition lawmaker Adriana D'Elia said in a statement.

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The protests are not only occurring in Caracas. Members of the Popular Will and First Justice opposition parties, joined by National Assembly opposition member Juan Pablo Guanipa, protested outside of the home of the governor of Zulia. Opposition officials said security officers from the Venezuelan National Guard and Bolivarian National Police fired tear gas at the protesters, who circulated images on social media of tear gas canisters.

The protests come after Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ, in late March said it would assume the National Assembly's duties -- a ruling it later reversed, particularly after Venezuela's chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, expressed "great concern" about the measure, which she said violated the Constitution. The opposition said the TSJ's move was akin to a coup d'etat in favor of President Nicolas Maduro's regime.

The South American country is facing a political, security and economic crisis in which basic goods such as food and medicine are in short supply, unavailable or unaffordable. Venezuela has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

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The opposition's efforts to remove Maduro from power have been dismantled by the TSJ, which is accused of ruling in favor of Maduro's regime.

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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.

"The fight is always worth it if the end is worthwhile and the media is honest," Capriles Radonski said in a statement on Monday.

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