CARACAS, Venezuela — Tens of thousands of Venezuelans flooded a main highway in the capital on Thursday in the latest protest over what opponents consider an attempt by the government to seize power from the legislature and further sideline the opposition.
What began as a peaceful demonstration turned violent in the afternoon, as soldiers used tear gas and water hoses to disperse crowds and protesters hurled rocks. Protests earlier this week also resulted in injuries and arrests.
Opponents of President Nicolás Maduro’s embattled socialist government have taken to the streets since Friday to condemn a move by the supreme court to strip legislative powers from the congress amid a long-running economic and political crisis.
Blasted at home and abroad, the supreme court quickly rolled back its decision, but that has not stopped the opposition to Maduro’s government from taking to the streets. By Thursday morning, crowds had massed in eastern Caracas carrying flags and signs that read “No more dictatorship” and “I am the National Assembly.”
“I’m tired of being scared,” said Mery Santiago, 60, an accountant who attended in part out of frustration with rising crime rates. “Almost every month I get robbed, and I can’t stand it anymore.”
In recent years, Venezuelans have endured extreme shortages of food and medicine because of government mismanagement and low oil prices. Maduro, the hand-picked successor to Hugo Chávez, has largely ruled by decree for the past two years. Opponents in the legislature have so far failed to organize a recall referendum and early elections. Electoral institutions and the courts are stacked with Maduro supporters.
Maria Auxiliadora Soler, an 80-year-old protester, said this has been a terrible year as she searches for blood-pressure medicine. She now relies on pills that family and friends buy for her on travels abroad.
“Now I just have a couple of them. I count them every day, and it feels like counting the days I have left to live,” she said.
Jose Noguera, an 18-year-old university student, said that his grandfather died last year because he couldn’t find treatment for his cancer.
“I hope this time people will actually stay in the streets until we see a real change,” he said.
Partlow reported from Mexico City.