More than 200,000 demonstrators have turned out across Venezuela to protest the government of President Nicolas Maduro, marking 50 days of action by his opponents. Government supporters also took to the streets.
Police fired tear gas to break up protests against the Maduro government on Saturday. The protests were some of the biggest of the seven weeks of protest rallies, when several hundred thousand people came out on April 19.
Anti-government activists had shut down a main road in the Venezuelan capital on Saturday by erecting barricades, while at least 10 metro stations were closed by officials. Soldiers also closed off access to parts of the city in anticipation of the protests.
"It's been 50 days of protests. I'm here with my two children, I can't get any milk, I can't get any food," 24-year-old businesswoman Mariangel told the Agence France-Presse, her face painted with the red, blue and yellow colors of the Venezuelan flag.
Some of those gathered in Caracas held placards that read "No more dictatorship in Venezuela." Young men carrying makeshift shields, wearing hoods and gas masks were also seen among the protesters, who numbered at more than 160,000, according to opposition leaders.
In another part of the capital, 2,000 Maduro supporters sang and danced ahead of a welcome he had planned for them at the Miraflores presidential palace.
The defiant president has been posting videos of himself driving with the windows down through several neighborhoods of the capital at night, talking about restoring peace in the country.
"Look how peaceful it is here. We're defeating the barricade-builders and violence-bringers," he said Friday night as he was seen driving past a plaza that has become a gathering place for the opposition movement.
Months of violence
At least 46 people have been killed in violent protests which have persisted across the country since early April. The anti-Maduro demonstrators are demanding new elections.
They blame their president for the oil-rich country's soaring inflation, food and medicine shortages and rising crime rates.
Maduro and his supporters have accused protesters of attempting to foment a coup beneath the pro-democracy rhetoric.
In San Cristobal, in the country's western Tachira state, it was estimated that at least 40,000 people took to the streets. Maduro this week deployed 2,600 soldiers to the state, near the border with Colombia, to quell riots and looting there.
On Thursday, the US imposed sanctions on eight members of Venezuela's Supreme Court. Maduro responded by telling US President Donald Trump to stop meddling in his country's affairs.
se/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)