At least 120 people were injured and 147 arrested on Wednesday during street marches organized by Venezuela’s opposition to protest the government’s suspension of the recall referendum against President Nicolás Maduro.
The figures were released by opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who showed photographs of people with injuries caused by bullet wounds. Marchers came out in force in Caracas but also in other major cities including Barquisimeto and Maracay. In Mérida, demonstrators squared off with riot police.
Meanwhile, Interior and Justice Minister Néstor Reverol said that one police officer in the state of Miranda died and two more were injured after trying to break up a demonstration, the news agency Efe reported.
The opposition alliance described Maduro’s decision to suspend the recall vote as “a coup d’état”
Tens of thousands of people were said to have joined the nationwide movement to protest the government’s actions. Capriles has called for more marches on Thursday but only in the capital, Caracas.
The opposition alliance Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) – which has described Maduro’s decision to suspend the recall vote as “a coup d’état” – is also encouraging Venezuelans to go on a 12-hour general strike on Friday.
Capriles was at the head of the Wednesday march in Caracas, which began at noon. Demonstrators occupied the eastern stretch of Francisco Fajardo Expressway, which crosses the narrow valley of the Venezuelan capital.
“The Taking of Venezuela,” as the march was dubbed, became a massive act of popular protest against Maduro and the economic calamities that have befallen the South American nation during his tenure.
Protesters came out in force despite last-minute organization and the government’s moves to hinder the event, including the shutting down of 10 subway stations.
But this time the Bolivarian National Guard, which typically dislikes events that cut off traffic on the expressways, allowed marchers through without any trouble.
Meanwhile, supporters of chavismo milled around Miraflores Palace, the seat of government, to prevent a reiteration of the events of April 11, 2002, when the late President Hugo Chávez was deposed for 72 hours.
Inside the palace, President Maduro had convened a meeting of the National Defense Council, an advisory body that includes top representatives from the five branches of power.
But there was one conspicuous absentee: Henry Ramos Allup, the speaker of the National Assembly and a leading member of the opposition. With the television cameras rolling, Maduro criticized his absence and lamented that he he continues to be “in contempt” of the Supreme Court, a government-stacked body that has invalidated all decisions by the National Assembly until the latter ejects three deputies under scrutiny for electoral fraud.
English version by Susana Urra.