Opponents of Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro staged a large protest in east Caracas following power and water outages and cellphone disruptions. Elsewhere in the city, a smaller crowd of regime supporters danced the salsa.
Venezuela's President of the National Assembly Juan Guaido addressed thousands of protesters in eastern Caracas on Saturday, after the country was hit by prolonged blackouts, water shortages and cellphone disruptions.
"We haven't just come to demand water and power. We've come to demand freedom and democracy," Guaido said at the rally. "We can't let ourselves become used to this, we can't put up with it, we aren't going to let these crooks keep hold of our country."
Ahead of the march, Guaido sent out a text message to supporters saying that the rally would be "the greatest escalation of pressure we have seen in our history." Guaido is recognized as acting President of Venezuela by 54 governments.
The Saturday event marks the first anti-Maduro protest held after the officials loyal to acting President Nicolas Maduro stripped Guaido of parliamentary immunity. The chief prosecutor, meanwhile, has opened a probe into Guaido and the alleged "incidents of violence" at the protests.
Filling the streets 'with joy'
Also on Saturday, a smaller crowd of Maduro backers gathered in downtown Caracas to beat drums and dance the salsa. Many of the demonstrators wore red shirts, a symbol of support for Maduro's nominally left-wing government.
"Let's fill the streets of Caracas with joy," Maduro tweeted. "Together, in an unending mobilization, we'll defend our nation's peace and independence."
The 35-year-old Guaido first drew international attention in January by invoking his authority as parliamentary speaker to take over the office of president from Maduro, who had sidelined the country's opposition-dominated parliament. Guaido was declared interim president, with US and all key Western nations recognizing the move.
Maduro has so far refused to step down. He has shrugged off international pressure and accused Guaido of being a US puppet. The socialist leader also blamed the recent power and water outages and other disruptions on cyberattacks by the US.
dj/jm (AP, Reuters)