Venezuela Braces for Anti-Maduro Protests Amid Talk of Internal Strife

Venezuela Braces for Anti-Maduro Protests Amid Talk of Internal Strife
People wait in line to buy products at government-regulated prices, Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s ongoing political battle between its three branches of government, which has paralyzed efforts to stop the country’s slide into the economic abyss, is slated to get worse this weekend when the opposition takes to the streets to press President Nicolas Maduro to resign. The Democratic Unity Roundtable—the opposition coalition known by its Spanish acronym, MUD, that won a parliamentary majority in last year’s elections—has called for demonstrations in Caracas and other cities Saturday as part of a full-court press to end Venezuela’s crisis peacefully by forcing Maduro out and holding fresh presidential elections.

In a press conference Tuesday, MUD Executive Secretary Jesus Torrealba called on Venezuelans “to launch the largest popular pressure movement that has ever existed, to activate all, and I repeat all, mechanisms of change.” Thousands are expected to heed Torrealba’s call, which will be the first widespread anti-government demonstrations since 2014, when opposition-led protests turned violent, leaving parts of Caracas and other cities looking like war zones.

Those protests left 43 dead in their wake and resulted in the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who is now serving a 13-year jail term in a military prison outside Caracas on what many consider to be politically motivated charges. After Torrealba’s press conference, the Maduro-led government immediately announced plans for its own competing march the same day.

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