Thousands confront Venezuelan security forces in new charge against 'dictatorship'

Thousands of protesters demanding new elections have faced off with security forces who launched tear gas and stood shoulder-to-shoulder blocking roads in the Venezuelan capital.

Thousands confront Venezuelan security forces in new charge against 'dictatorship'

Thousands of protesters demanding new elections have faced off with security forces who launched tear gas and stood shoulder-to-shoulder blocking roads in the Venezuelan capital.

Demonstrators covered their faces to protect against the plumes of tear gas that wafted through the streets of Caracas.

A few threw rocks as they tried to make their way through the centre of the city waving Venezuelan flags and carrying signs condemning President Nicolas Maduro.

"We need to get out on the street and fight, to tell these people we don't want them," said Maria Guedez, a 67-year-old carrying a sign that read: "No more dictatorship."

The protests initially erupted on April 1 after the Supreme Court stripped congress of its last vestiges of power, a decision it later reversed.

Demonstrators and opposition leaders are angered at what they see as a government that no longer respects democratic institutions and is sliding towards authoritarianism.

Authorities rejected an opposition campaign to hold a recall referendum on Mr Maduro last year, and a date has yet to be set for gubernatorial elections that were supposed to take place in 2016.

Mr Maduro accuses the opposition of fomenting unrest and conspiring with international groups to destabilise the country. He was in Cuba on Monday for a gathering of the Bolivarian Alliance, a leftist coalition of 11 Latin American nations.

On Sunday the president called on the opposition to return to efforts at dialogue and said he was eager for regional elections to take place, but opposition leaders renewed calls to take to the streets, saying Mr Maduro's words have no credibility until a full election timeline has been formally established.

"That's the only way there will be peace in Venezuela," said Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly.

Monday's protest took place at the start of Easter Week, when many Venezuelans spend quiet time at home with family or go on holiday. Opposition party leaders urged people to put any beach plans on hold and instead get some sun while out putting pressure on the government.

Authorities shut down several metro stations citing security reasons, but thousands walked to the march.

In some previous demonstrations, government groups roughed up several opposition leaders and fired rubber bullets and a previously unseen reddish gas at crowds.

One day a small group of young protesters unsuccessfully tried to set fire to a Supreme Court office, and another group snatched a camera from journalists working for pro-government state broadcaster VTV.

The unrest has left one person dead and dozens injured. More than 100 have been detained.

AP

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