Venezuela opposition leader gets 15-year ban from running for office

"DON'T COME CRYING' The decision to politically neutralize Capriles will likely stoke tensions in Venezuela, where more than 100 political prisoners are now being held, according to the opposition and rights groups".

As the sea of protesters approached the headquarters of state-run PDVSA oil company, they were met by a curtain of eye-scorching tear gas and rubber bullets.

Further protests have been called for Monday and after an Easter holiday, extended by Maduro for three days, for Wednesday April 19. 17 people have been injured in Caracas in Venezuela from the activities of the protest. But now the almost-daily churn of events in what's being called the "ongoing coup" - the government's alleged moves to accumulate more power - has energized and united the normally fractious opposition leading up to.

AFP reporters also witnessed a National Guard soldier lying unconscious after having been struck by a large rock.

Maduro said in a televised address that authorities had detained 30 people involved in the demonstration. "But today they can see that what is happening here is a humanitarian crisis", he said.

"The only one who is disqualified in this country is you, Nicolas Maduro, you and the corrupt drug-trafficking leadership that is with you!"

Police used tear gas against demonstrators as anti-government protests continue in Caracas. The court pulled that decision back after it came under heavy criticism, but opposition leaders said the attempt to invalidate a branch of power revealed the administration's true dictatorial nature. The protest movement's immediate goal apparently is to force Maduro to call elections.

He retains the public support of the military.

Worldwide criticism of his government mounted in recent weeks after the Supreme Court moved to curb the powers of the opposition-majority legislature.

The court later reversed the rulings after an worldwide outcry, but kept in place other measures limiting the assembly's powers.

Opposition lawmakers launched an effort to impeach the judges on Wednesday.

"What is the order of Maduro?"

They refused Thursday to give the go-ahead - though the attorney general had sharply criticized the Supreme Court rulings, in a rare display of dissent in Maduro's camp.

The Interior Ministry said that transit police officer had been arrested but denied opposition claims that Ortiz was taking part in any demonstration.

In the Caracas protest there was a moment of silence in memory of a young man shot dead on Thursday by police during demonstrations.

“We always try but we never quite make it, because the repression is brutal, ” said Elias Bracho, a 20-year-old engineering student. The protesters then threw stones at the police. The party said other COPEI leaders had been arrested in recent days and accused of treason.

On Wednesday, similar clashes broke out in the western city of San Cristobal, the scene of deadly riots and looting past year, and in the city of Valencia.

As the most dominant figure in the opposition over the past decade, Capriles has been at the forefront of the protests, the most combative since a wave of anti-government unrest in 2014 that was blamed for dozens of deaths.

Maduro responded by calling for an "iron-fisted" investigation against Smolansky, saying his "criminal messages" are an attempt to lay the ground work for a USA military intervention.

Maduro is resisting opposition efforts to hold an early vote on removing him from power.

The next presidential election is scheduled for December 2018.

Regional governorship polls were postponed indefinitely in December and municipal ones are due later this year amid a chaotic political struggle. There are shortages of food, medicines and basic goods. But now the nearly daily churn of events in what's being called the "ongoing coup" - the government's moves to accumulate more power - has energized and united the normally fractious opposition. Opposition leaders say it is an arbitrary mechanism that allows the ruling Socialist Party to sideline popular politicians without due process.

"We're not taking to the streets because we don't like Maduro", he said.

  • Leroy Wright