Violent clashes in Venezuela demanding dismissal of apex court justices

In 2015 another prominent opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, was sentenced to almost 14 years in prison on charges of inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014.

The government's decision Friday to ban popular opposition leader Henrique Capriles from doing political work for 15 years galvanized the opposition again. The government move, which the 44-year-old Capriles announced on Friday, effectively prevents him from running against Maduro in next year's general election.

The opposition refers to the events as an "ongoing coup" by the government which has energised and united the normally fractious opposition.

Venezuela's powerful new vice president, Tareck El Aissami, declared Saturday's demonstration "illegal and unconstitutional", because the opposition had not received official permission for it.

State comptroller Manuel Galindo imposed the ban on Capriles due to alleged "administrative irregularities" in his post as governor of the northern state of Miranda. His supporters decried the move as another step toward dictatorship. The protests were triggered by the Supreme Court's decision to gut the opposition-controlled legislature of its last vestiges of power, a move that was later reversed amid widespread global condemnation and even dissent within Maduro's normally disciplined socialist leadership.

Over the last few days, authorities accused the opposition - and Capriles in particular - of fomenting violence and bloodshed by leading increasingly intense protests against Maduro. He said followers of "little Capriles" were seeking a bloodbath.

Security police fired tear gas on one major avenue in Caracas while in the city of San Cristobal they shot rubber bullets towards protestors.

Capriles' case has echoes of that of former presidential hopeful Leopoldo Lopez, now serving a 14-year jail sentence on charges of inciting 2014 anti-government protests. She said she's thinking about joining a sister and scores of college friends who have left the South American country to seek a better future.

"The right wing's treason of our national interests is cause for indignation", Maduro said.

While she said she was hopeful the world is beginning to see there are injustices in Venezuela, her father, Carlos Paez, was more pessimistic.

Another protest was called on Monday.

Supporters of Maduro have also staged protests across the country this week.

Tensions have been running high between the opposition and the government since the 2015 elections, when the opposition gained control of the parliament. Authorities last year cancelled an opposition campaign to force a recall referendum on Maduro and no date has yet been set for gubernatorial elections that were supposed to take place last year.

"However, it is a risky strategy that will probably backfire", Eurasia Group said in a report Friday.

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