Venezuela's Maduro blasts foe for chemical attack comments

Demonstrators gathered in several cities on Monday for a fourth round of protests in 10 days, blocking the main highway through Caracas in the morning until they were dispersed by National Guard troops.

"We went into the streets to protest measures taken by the government against our own constitution and our own democracy", Juan Mejia, an opposition lawmaker, said to NBC News.

"They can not give a standing ovation to the man responsible for the worst humanitarian crisis in our history!"

As the sea of protesters approached the headquarters of state-run PDVSA oil company, they were met by rubber bullets and a curtain of eye-scorching tear gas, some of it a never-before-seen red color. He said 134 people remain detained, eight of whom he said are considered political prisoners.

It intensified further after state authorities on Friday said they were disqualifying senior opposition figure Henrique Capriles from holding public office.

Most of the protesters are peaceful and say street action is their only option after authorities previous year blocked a recall referendum to remove Maduro.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on Sunday, April 9, for an investigation against a leading opposition politician for falsely suggesting the government was carrying out a Syria-like chemical attack against protesters. As night fell, many streets still reeked of tear gas and a small group of youth burned trash and tore down street signs at busy intersections in eastern Caracas.

Mexico's position reflects deep concern about the humanitarian crisis caused by food and medicine shortages in Venezuela, as well as the Supreme Court's recent short-lived decision to take over the powers of the country's opposition-controlled Congress.

Sucre added. The incident drew immediate parallels with previous year, when authorities briefly rounded up more than 30 people on Margarita island for heckling Maduro, a rare sight given that the president's appearances typically are carefully choreographed and show only cheering supporters wearing red shirts. She also appealed to “security forces to operate in accordance with global human rights standards for the management of assemblies.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Raad Zeid al-Hussein, has asked for an independent investigation into the death of Jairo Ortiz, 19, who died last week in Carrizal municipality in Miranda state on the outskirts of Caracas.

The protest movement's immediate goal apparently is to force Maduro to call elections. The prosecutor's office said in a statement it was investigating the incident.

Maduro was in Havana for a meeting of foreign ministers of the leftist ALBA bloc, a Latin American group co-founded by his late mentor, Hugo Chavez.

The opposition, which also accuses Maduro of installing a dictatorship, is demanding the authorities set a date for postponed regional elections.

  • Wendy Palmer