Protesters are clashing with police on the streets of one of the world’s most unstable countries

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An opposition supporter stands in front of Venezuelan National Guards in a rally to demand a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, May 11, 2016.
source
REUTERS/Marco Bello

In Venezuela – mired in deep economic malaise and beset by intense violence – demonstrators took to the streets on Wednesday to protest the increasingly embattled and isolated socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

In recent days, Maduro has railed against alleged interference from the US and elsewhere that he says is part of a campaign to remove his government from power by illegitimate means.

The protests, which are a follow-up to demonstrations that took place last week, have been led by officials from the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD, by its Spanish acronym) and have already drawn comparisons to the wave of protests that swept the country in early 2014, which left dead more than 40 people from both sides of the political divide.


Demonstrators took to the streets last week as part of an effort to carry out a recall referendum against Maduro.

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An opposition supporter catches a tear-gas bomb during clashes with riot policemen in a rally to demand a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, May 11, 2016.
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REUTERS/Marco Bello

The referendum reportedly has more than 1.8 million signatures in support, considerably more than the 200,000 needed to start the recall process, but less than the 4 million needed to actually begin the referendum.

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Opposition supporters clash with riot policemen during a rally to demand a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2016.
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REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Source: The Financial Times


If the recall referendum occurs this year, and if it garners more than the 7.6 million votes Maduro received in the 2013 election, then he is removed from office and a new election must take place.

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Opposition supporters clash with riot policemen during a rally to demand a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2016.
source
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Given the widespread disapproval of Maduro’s government — a survey by Venezuelan polling firm Datanálisis revealed that almost 70% of people in the country wanted him to go — a new election could see his party lose the presidency for the first time since the late 1990s.

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Opposition supporters clash with Venezuelan National Guards during a rally to demand a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, May 11, 2016.
source
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Source: The Financial Times


If the referendum is delayed until next year, however, Maduro’s removal would mean that the vice president — also a member of the governing socialist party — would take over.

“#18May Demonstrators remain on Libertador Ave. shouting slogans in favor of the recall referendum,” this tweet reads in English.


“#18May Opposition leaders are moved from Libertador Ave. after delivering a document to rector Rondón,” this tweet reads in English, referring to Luis Rondón, the principal rector of the CNE.


Consequently, the government has attempted to slow the referendum process, insisting on a full review of the signatures and suggesting that fraud could have occurred. Protests last week and this week are part of public calls for the National Election Commission (CNE) to verify the signatures and continue the process.

Protesters in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, have clashed with police already on Wednesday, and tear gas has been deployed.


Demonstrators and members of the Venezuelan police and national guard — clad in riot gear and launching tear-gas canisters — have squared off in the country’s streets.

pic.twitter.com/pDexBIDZXa

pic.twitter.com/pDexBIDZXaMay18, 2016


Some people have already been injured by flying objects.

“A demonstrator was wounded in Libertador [Avenue] by a blunt object launched from” buildings nearby, this tweet reads in English.

Source: La Patilla


“#18May Various university students reported wounded,” this tweet reads in English, indicating that groups have blamed police in Mérida, a city in western Venezuela, for the injuries.


These protesters encountered a police cordon while trying to march to the CNE office in Caracas.


pic.twitter.com/zwSTLHvMay

pic.twitter.com/zwSTLHvMayMay18, 2016


“Plaza Venezuela anti-riot [units] of the national police and national guard prohibit passage for opposition protesters,” this tweet reads in English.


Protests have taken place in different cities throughout Venezuela.

“They suppress students in #Carabobo #18May,” this tweet reads in English, referring to the northern Venezuelan state of Carabobo.


#EnVivoManifestantes opositores cuestionan a funcionarios de la PNB sobreescasez en el país pic.twitter.com/4FmVYBxXqD

#EnVivopic.twitter.com/4FmVYBxXqDMay18, 2016

“Opposition demonstrators question national police functionaries about scarcity in the country,” this tweet reads in English.


Government supporters have turned out as well.

#EnVivo Gruposmotorizados identificados con el chavismo circulan alrededor dePlaza Venezuela pic.twitter.com/fcy5OckALs

#EnVivopic.twitter.com/fcy5OckALsMay18, 2016

Motocycle groups identified with chavismo [i.e. government supporters] circle around Plaza Venezuela,” this tweet reads in English.


“The Bolivarian police impedes our passage toward the CNE using force, but we are not leaving until we are heard,” reads this tweet from a Caracas city councilor.


#EnVivo RectorLuis Emilio Rondón llegó a encontrarse con marcha opositora. Av.Libertador en Las Palmas pic.twitter.com/7B7MeR7RHH

#EnVivopic.twitter.com/7B7MeR7RHHMay18, 2016

This video reportedly shows Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles and National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup, both opposition leaders, presenting a document requesting the CNE validate the signatures in order to activate the recall.

Capriles said the the MUD wanted a peaceful, democratic, and electoral exit of the government of Nicolas Maduro, according to La Patilla.


Elsewhere in Venezuela, everyday life seemed to continue.

“Lines in Barrancas, Táchira state,” this tweet reads in English, referring to a line at a supermarket in a neighborhood San Cristobal, the capital of the restive western state of Táchira.