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Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for massive protests [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]
Thousands march in Venezuela a day after opposition’s Guaido called for uprising as Maduro remained defiant.
Thousands of opposition and pro-government supporters rallied in Venezuela on Wednesday, a day after opposition leader Juan Guaido called for the military to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
“If the regime thought we had reached maximum pressure, they cannot even imagine,” Guaido told thousands of supporters in eastern Caracas. “We have to remain in the streets.”
Maduro also called for his supporters to take to the streets. On Twitter, he said that foreign interference was not the way forward in Venezuela.
“It was demonstrated that interference, coups and armed confrontations, are not the way for our beloved Venezuela,” Maduro wrote.
“The route to settle differences will always be constitutionality and mutual respect,” he added.
In the western part of Caracas, Venezuelans banged drums and carried banners that called for “freedom”. On a highway close to an airbase in the east of the capital, government forces fired tear gas on protesters.
The UN said it was “worried” by reports of security forces using “excessive” force against demonstrators.
“In light of the mass protests planned for today, we call on all sides to show maximum restraint and on the authorities to respect the right to peaceful assembly. We also warn against the use of language inciting people to violence,” it said in a statement.
Maduro supporters marched, wearing red, and the party’s leaders said Wednesday’s results were a result for the government.
“Yesterday hate and improvisation prevailed, nobody knows who is leading today,” Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Constituent Assembly, said during the march.
“[On our side] we are celebrating a victory, and we are celebrating with the working class.”
Guaido’s choice of International Workers’ Day for the major protest came as he tried to win the support of union leaders, a traditional base that have always shown support for Maduro and his socialist party.
The protest participation provided a test for Guaido’s plan to overthrow Maduro, a day after the opposition leader called for a “military uprising” in his strongest move since invoking the Constitution to declare himself interim president on January 23.
“This is the time to go out and protest,” Rachid Yasbek, an opposition leader told Al Jazeera.
“Somehow there has been some fragmentation within the government structure, it would be a mistake to stop,” he added.
Maduro has accused the United States and Guaido of staging a “coup”. On Tuesday night, the socialist president declared victory over the uprising, saying the opposition’s move will not go unpunished.
Although Guaido has earned the backing of the US and dozens of other Western countries, Maduro holds the support of the armed forces and Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and Cuba.
Some analysts believe the real negotiations are taking place abroad.
“All indicates that negotiations are taking place at the international level,” Carlos Pina, a political analyst in Venezuela told Al Jazeera.
“So, what we expect today are protests on both sides, but what will really define the current situation will be the discussions among the elites of the country, and the negotiations that are taking place outside Venezuela,” he added.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s living standards have declined this year with a series of blackouts and water shortages adding stress to an already difficult situation for many facing hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages.
“I went out because I’m convinced this is the right path, half of my life I have lived it under the Chavismo,” Antonia Lapadom told Al Jazeera.
“But from some time now, all we do is survive, from some time now, we are staying more alone, from some time now, I see a decrease in health quality, these all are good reasons to go out,” she added.
Government supporters say they are also ready to support the revolution, arguing that the current situation is a consequence of foreign intervention.
“I am advocating for the liberty of my country, [external forces] can’t run over it and keep threatening it. We are a free country with free lands, free men, and we rather stand than to be in our knees,” Julio Cesar Acevedo, 66, said.
But protesters also admitted there was fear.
“We are afraid, yes, but I think that every time there is an opportunity for a change, where you can help, we have to take it, because we don’t know when will it come again,” Lapadom said.
The United Nations says a quarter of Venezuela’s 30 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, and that 3.7 million are malnourished.
And while not all are convinced the opposition offers the best solutions, many are eager to see change.
“I think this is the time to support the only people, that seems to be eager to make a change, I don’t see anyone else trying,” Manuel, a Venezuelan citizen, told Al Jazeera.
“We need to go out, we can’t keep risking Venezuela, this country needs to be rescued,” he said.Source: Al Jazeera