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Venezuela Protests: New Campaign to Oust President Nicolas Maduro

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Venezuelan opposition has held a day of protests to launch a new campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

Crowds marched in capital Caracas and other cities to express their anger at Venezuela’s economic crisis and called on the president to stand down.

Nicolas Maduro led a protest in Caracas against the renewal of US sanctions on top Venezuelan officials.

The opposition has made clear it intends to use street power to force Nicolas Maduro from office.

March 12 protests marked the launch of Venezuela’s opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD).

Last week the coalition announced it would use all options available to try to remove Nicolas Maduro, including a recall referendum and a constitutional amendment reducing the presidential term from six to four years.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

The opposition won a landslide victory in last December’s elections but it has seen its authority hamstrung by the Supreme Court which it says supports the government.

As a result, the MUD has placed special emphasis on protests as a way to put force Nicolas Maduro’s resignation.

Correspondents say this is a potentially explosive path after anti-government demonstrations in 2014 left 43 people dead. This led to the arrest of a number of opposition leaders on charges of murder and inciting violence.

Nicolas Maduro led his own rally in Caracas, ostensibly against US sanctions and what the government regards as interference in Venezuela’s affairs.

The sanctions were first put in place a year ago after a government crack-down on opposition leaders.

The protests come against the backdrop of a deep economic crisis made worse by the crash in the price of oil which long funded the Chavez and Maduro government’s spending on social welfare.

Venezuela holds the world’s largest crude reserves but its economy contracted 5.7% in 2015.