Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela: Violence flares at anti-Maduro motorised protests

Opposition sympathizers participate in a protest against the Government in Caracas, Venezuela Image copyright EPA
Image caption The opposition has been holding almost daily protests for the past six weeks

Thousands of Venezuelans in cars and motorbikes have filled roads across the country in motorised protests against President Nicolas Maduro.

Riot police on motorbikes fired tear gas against opposition demonstrators and blocked their motorcade in the capital, Caracas, where a bus was also set on fire.

There were clashes in Valencia and other Venezuelan cities.

Nearly 40 people have been killed since the unrest began six weeks ago.

Mr Maduro has accused the leader of the opposition-led National Assembly, Julio Borges, of inciting violence by calling people onto the streets.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Demonstrators blocked roads and motorways
Image copyright EPA
Image caption An opposition protester (in white) was arrested by motorised police in Caracas

On Friday, riot police clashed with elderly protesters at the so-called Grandparents March in Caracas.

Opposition leaders say they will keep the pressure on Mr Maduro's government.

"We are going to stay in the street, building a way out of the crisis," opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara told AFP news agency in Caracas.

The current unrest was triggered by a Supreme Court attempt to take over powers from the opposition-controlled National Assembly on 29 March.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police did not say who was responsible for setting a passenger bus alight in the capital
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Demonstrators on horses also joined the protests

It reversed its decision a few days later, but by then the opposition had seized the momentum.

Despite having the world's largest known oil reserves, Venezuela is facing a shortage of many basic items, including food and medicines.

Its economy has collapsed, with inflation expected to top 700% this year and crime is rampant.

The opposition says the socialist governments of Mr Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, have mismanaged the economy since coming to power in 1999.

It is calling for early elections and the release of opposition politicians jailed over the past few years.

Mr Maduro accuses the country's business elite of boycotting the economy to create unrest and topple his democratically-elected government. His term ends in January 2019.

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