Anti-government protesters march along a highway in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 19. Opponents of President Nicolás Maduro called on Venezuelans to take to the streets to march against the embattled socialist leader. (Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press)

Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets in Caracas on Wednesday, protesting President Nicolás Maduro. His opponents billed their march as “the mother of all protests.”


Demonstrators try to tear down a fence at the La Carlota Air Base during a rally in Caracas on April 19. (Juan Barreto/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

What resulted was a crackdown on the demonstrators, who fled clouds of tear gas. At least two people were shot dead by unidentified attackers. At least six Venezuelans have already died this month in what have been the biggest anti-government protests since 2014.


Demonstrators clash with police during an opposition protest in Caracas on April 19. Police, using tear gas, dispersed protesters in the city's center. (Miguel Gutierrez/European Pressphoto Agency)

Wednesday was an important test for the opposition and whether it could persuade frustrated Venezuelans to overcome their fear, join the marches and turn out a crowd large enough to dispel any doubts about who has the masses on their side.


Demonstrators clash with riot police during the “mother of all protests” in Caracas, Venezuela, on April 19. (Christian Veron/Reuters)

The opposition is calling on the government to hold new elections, free political prisoners and remove supreme court judges who tried last month to strip Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature of its authority. That move raised an international outcry, and although the court mostly reversed itself the following day, Maduro's opponents found the spark they needed to launch a new protest movement.


Demonstrators clash with riot police in Caracas on April 19. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

 


Demonstrators flee from riot police during a rally in Caracas on April 19. (Juan Barreto/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

Their repeated attempts this month to march to government buildings in downtown Caracas have been beaten back by riot police firing tear gas and pepper spray. Those protests have been large, but not massive by Venezuelan standards. Opposition leaders hoped today's protests would succeed in attracting a broader range of Venezuelans, including those who are angry at the government but may be too intimidated by the threat of violence to march.


Demonstrators take to the streets of Caracas to protest the government on April 19. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 


An injured demonstrator is helped during protests in Caracas on April 19. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

 


Demonstrators clash with riot police during the protests against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas on April 19. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Read more: 

On April 19, the Venezuelan government seized a General Motors plant, after opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro held the largest protest so far that month. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Venezuelans join massive demonstration against President Maduro

Protests sweeping South America show rising anti-government anger

Venezuela’s opposition holds its biggest protests in years. Will they change anything?