Crowd clashes with police in Venezuela's latest protest

Student protesters are met with tear gas during heated protests in Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro.

CARACAS • Protesters hurling rocks clashed with police firing tear gas over the weekend in Venezuela's fourth demonstration in a week against President Nicolas Maduro and his government.

The rally on Saturday was marked by anger over a ruling from the leftist government banning opposition leader Henrique Capriles from office for 15 years. Around 4,000 people attended the demonstration.

State Comptroller Manuel Galindo imposed the ban on Mr Capriles due to his alleged "administrative irregularities" while serving as governor of the northern state of Miranda.

Mr Capriles said that he would appeal against the decision and stay in his job as governor, which he has held since 2008.

He narrowly lost the 2013 presidential election that brought Mr Maduro to power following the death of his mentor, Mr Hugo Chavez - father of Venezuela's "socialist revolution".

The government move, which Mr Capriles, 44, announced on Friday, effectively prevents him from running against Mr Maduro in next year's general election.

Venezuela's political crisis intensified last week when the Supreme Court issued rulings curbing the powers of the opposition-controlled legislature.

The court reversed the rulings days later, but the opposition intensified its protests, prompting police to fire tear gas and water cannon.

"People are tired of so much corruption, hunger and poverty," said protester Vanessa Garcia, 37, an optometry student.

The collapse in prices for Venezuela's crucial oil exports has sapped the country's revenues.

Ordinary Venezuelans are suffering from shortages of food, medicine and basic goods, along with a surge in violent crime.

The opposition blames Mr Maduro for the economic crisis. He says it is due to a capitalist conspiracy backed by the United States.

At least 51 people were arrested nationwide in Saturday's clashes, 17 of whom were released, the non-governmental organisation Criminal Justice Forum said. The initial tally of injuries stood at 17, according to the mayor of one of Caracas' districts.

New protests are planned for next week.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2017, with the headline 'Crowd clashes with police in Venezuela's latest protest'. Print Edition | Subscribe