Security forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro have clashed with protesters led by opposition leader Juan Guaido in Caracas. Guaido is trying to ratchet up the fizzling broad public support for Maduro's ouster.
Opposition protesters in Venezuela were confronted by state security forces on Tuesday as they attempted to retake the national congress in an attempt to revamp pressure on long-term President Nicolas Maduro, whom they view as a dictator.
Maduro's Socialist government faced widespread political protests starting in early 2019, when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself acting interim president.
However, Maduro has thus far managed to maintain power while Guaido has struggled to keep up opposition momentum amid political deadlock and as a humanitarian crisis has descended upon the country.
Freedom in the streets of Caracas
"Today we take once again to the streets, the space where citizens are free," Guaido said of Tuesday's march.
The march was the first opposition demonstration since Guaido returned from an international diplomatic tour, on which he sought to increase his political backing. Guaido, currently recognized as acting president by around 50 countries, is demanding that Maduro face new elections.
With Guaido in the lead, thousands of opposition marchers bearing Venezuelan flags set off in the capital Caracas toward the National Assembly, the congressional body he used to head. It is now in the hands of a splinter group backed by Maduro's Socialists.
Since January, the Maduro government has blocked attempts by Guaido and supporting lawmakers to re-enter the building, often through the use of force.
The marchers are "the legitimate representation of the Venezuelan people," Guaido said through a megaphone while facing riot police who had blockaded the way to the legislature.
Marchers attempted to push through the blockade and threw rocks and sticks at police, who proceeded to fire tear gas at the crowd.
At the same time, a counterdemonstration by those loyal to Maduro's Socialist government made its way toward the Constituent National Assembly. The rival legislative body that was called into existence in 2017 to cement Maduro's power through a new constitution.
Crackdown and refugee crisis
The political and economic crisis has caused nearly 5 million Venezuelans to flee the country. Those who remain face electricity, food and medicinal shortages.
International human rights officials have condemned the situation and attacks by the Maduro government against demonstrators and journalists.
cmb/ng (EFE, AP, AFP, Reuters)