Thousands of protesters demanding new elections took to the streets of Caracas in sometimes violent clashes with riot police. Demonstrators carried makeshift shields and wore improvised gas masks to protect themselves against the plumes of tear gas that wafted through the streets of the Venezuelan capital. A few threw rocks or Molotov cocktails and carried signs decrying President Nicolas Maduro.
Now in their second week, the protests initially erupted 1 April 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 toward authoritarianism.
A dozen people were injured in the latest protest. Opposition leaders slammed the government for arbitrary use of force in breaking up the demonstrations. They pointed to tear gas being fired into one Caracas clinic, requiring a baby to be rushed out by medical technicians. "Not even in war are there are attacks on hospitals and health centres," said opposition legislator Jose Manuel Olivares in a news conference.
Popular singer Miguel Ignacio Mendoza, known as Nacho, was among those affected by tear gas in Caracas. "The repression is not an invention of the media," he said, his eyes irritated by the gas. "I'm here to prove it"
Government officials sent images and videos via Twitter of hooded and masked protesters destroying public property such as a bus stop, accusing the opposition of orchestrating violence to destabilise the government.
Overall, the unrest over the last two weeks has left one person dead. Some 188 protesters, most of them students, were arrested in the period 4 to 8 April, and 57 are still behind bars, rights group Penal Forum said.
Despite the surge in protests, many Venezuelans are pessimistic that marches can bring about change, scared of violent clashes, or simply too busy trying to find food. Venezuelans are suffering from triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages of basic goods.