- Title: Venezuelans swell Caracas to oppose Maduro
- Date: 8th April 2017
- Summary: VENEZUELAN FLAG WAVING IN WIND AT PROTEST
- Embargoed: 22nd April 2017 18:29
- Keywords: Caracas Maduro Leopoldo Lopez Henrique Capriles
- Location: CARACAS, VENEZUELA
- City: CARACAS, VENEZUELA
- Country: Venezuela
- Topics: Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0026BJG4ZR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Venezuelan protesters marched through Caracas and cities across the country on Saturday (April 8), as the government's ban of Venezuela's top opposition leader from office breathed life into the disparate opposition and fueled the first sustained anti-government demonstrations since 2014.
Thousands of people, some carrying signs reading "No to dictatorship!" and "Capriles for President," took part in marches against the unpopular leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Saturday's protests continued a week of unrest sparked by last week's Supreme Court decision in which it assumed the role of the opposition-led congress. The action was quickly overturned, but the global outcry it sparked galvanized the opposition.
As during recent demonstrations, authorities on Saturday closed a dozen subway stations across Caracas and set up check points on highways leading to the capital.
Two-time presidential candidate and current Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles, who was seen by many as the opposition's best chance in the presidential election scheduled for 2018, was banned Friday from holding political office for 15 years. The order cited "administrative irregularities," including breaking contracting laws and improper management of donations, according to a copy of the ban.
Venezuela has been pummeled by a brutal economic crisis that has millions skipping meals, unable to afford the soaring prices for basic goods and facing long lines for scarce products.
Government critics say the ban on Capriles is arbitrary and allows the ruling Socialist Party to sideline popular politicians without due process to perpetuate its nearly two-decade-long rule.
After a recall referendum against Maduro was quashed last year and amid fears that next year's presidential election will not be fair, opposition supporters say they have no option but to take to the street. But after years of marching many are cynical while others are too consumed with trying to find food.
Still, others have been motivated by the escalating political crisis and the opposition coalition putting on a more dynamic and coordinated front than usual.
Oil-rich Venezuela is in the throes of what is thought to be a fourth straight year of recession, with roaring inflation and monthly wages stuck at a handful of dollars at the black market rate.
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