Police fire pepper spray at opposition march in Venezuela

Reuters

Pro-government authorities reportedly closed subway stations and set up checkpoints, besides cordoning off a venue where Maduro's opponents planned to meet for their latest demonstration. Protesters were making barricades and attacking the riot police with rocks and bottles.

Secretary-General of the OAS Luis Almagro and other member governments in the organization have continually called for Venezuela's suspensions from the organization and have spread false fears of an "auto-coup" to drum up worldwide opposition to the Maduro government.

Security forces using teargas and pepper-spray blocked them from reaching their rallying point.Opposition leaders led demonstrators onto highways to block traffic, and some youths donned masks and tossed stones in skirmishes with police and soldiers around the city.

Among those who felt the sting of the tear gas was the speaker of the National Assembly, Julio Borges, and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

Demonstrators react during an opposition rally in Caracas, Venezuela April 4, 2017. The crisis has led to acute shortage of food, water and basic supplies.

"We're going to get rid of them, but we have to fight", said Jose Zapata, a 57-year-old electrician, as he marched with a stick in his hand. One protester, Bernardo Sanchez, claimed a bullet had become lodged in his thigh.

The country's 2.8 million government workers already take the Thursday and Friday before Easter off from work, so the bonus days mean they will have the entire Holy Week free - even as Venezuela remains embroiled in deep political crisis.

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The opposition-controlled National Assembly had called for the march ahead of a vote by lawmakers to remove members of the country's top court, less than a week after judges attempted to seize the power of Congress. "The only coup here is against President Nicolas Maduro".

Although the court retracted the ruling, protesters said previous court judgments were still limiting the powers of the National Assembly and they fear there are more to come.

The head of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, condemned the crackdown "in the strongest terms", branding it "brutal repression".

The president made those statements, posted on Twitter, after OAS member countries resumed the extraordinary session on the situation in Venezuela, temporarily postponed by Bolivia, president of the council of that regional bloc.

In the pro-government march, thousands of people denounced the Organization of American States for criticizing the Venezuelan government over the court move.

Foreign pressure on Maduro has risen as opposition protests resumed late last week.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that the authoritarian lawlessness that has led the Venezuelan government to abandon democracy through a self-imposed coup d'etat, and to place itself outside the Inter-American constitutional legality, has once again turned itself against its own people in repression", Almagro said.

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