Cash-strapped Venezuela a major funder of Trump inauguration

Marchers in Caracas were forced back by lines of soldiers and police deployed to contain what the opposition vowed would be the

Venezuela braced for rival demonstrations Wednesday for and against President Nicolas Maduro, whose push to tighten his grip on power has triggered waves of deadly unrest that have escalated the country's political and economic crisis.

Opponents are now pushing for Maduro's removal through early elections and the release of scores of political prisoners.

A demonstrator is detained by riot police officers during the so called "mother of all marches" against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, April 19, 2017.

The opposition says Maduro made it clear to the world he was a dictator when the Supreme Court in late March assumed the functions of the opposition-led Congress.

Carlos Moreno, 18, a student, was leaving his home to play soccer in Caracas when armed government supporters approached a nearby opposition gathering and fired shots, according to witnesses.

"We have to protest because this country is dying of hunger said Alexis Mendoza, a 53-year-old administrator marching in the Caracas neighborhood of El Paraiso".

Further spurring outrage was a decision by the national comptroller's office earlier this month to disqualify opposition leader Henrique Capriles from holding office for 15 years, dashing his hopes for the presidency.

Tens of thousands of protesters converged from 26 different points spread across the capital to attempt to march downtown to the Ombudsman's office.

Anti-government protesters have described it as Venezuela's "second independence day".

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"The excessive ambition of [our] enemies threatens the peace and stability by carrying out a criminal agenda loaded with hate that includes terrorist acts, disturbances, looting, vandalism, different forms of violence against innocent people and public health facilities", Padrino said. The government last year abruptly postponed regional elections the opposition was heavily favoured to win, and cut off a petition drive to force a referendum seeking Maduro's removal before elections late next year. That move raised an worldwide 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. Although she doesn't expect change overnight, she said protesting is the only option the opposition has after what she says are scores of abuses committed by the government.

Maduro's opponents are vowing to stage the "mother of all protests" calling for his ouster, after two weeks of violent demonstrations that have left five people dead and dozens wounded. "We'll see who tires out first".

The minister said a preliminary investigation suggests that the Vente Venezuela attack on Ramirez was planned in advance.

They included state workers like Leidy Marquez, who was bused in from Tachira state on the other side of teh country. It's something the USA government is watching closely, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who spoke on the matter Wednesday.

In Latin America, where other governments are increasingly alarmed by Venezuela's instability, 11 countries including Brazil, Mexico and Chile issued a statement Monday condemning the deaths of protesters and urging the security forces to show restraint.

Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro declared in a speech to loyalists of his regime that he would arm thousands of his supporters as massive protests and riots occur across the country.

Maduro this week said he was dramatically expanding civilian militias created by the late Hugo Chavez and giving each member a gun.

The U.S. State Department said those who commit human rights abuses and undermine Venezuela's democratic institutions would be held accountable.

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