(Corrects name of opposition leader in para 6 to Requesens from
By Corina Pons and Andrew Cawthorne
CARACAS, April 5 Venezuela's opposition's
lawmakers gathered from dawn on Wednesday, some carrying
injuries from protests, to seek the dismissal of Supreme Court
judges whom they accuse of propping up a dictatorship.
Newly-militant opposition leaders also announced another
round of demonstrations against socialist President Nicolas
Maduro for Thursday, despite chaos and violence in Caracas on
Tuesday that left 18 people arrested and 20 injured.
The opposition, which won control of the National Assembly
in late 2015, accuses Maduro of wrecking the South American OPEC
nation's economy and squashing democracy.
The political drama is playing out to the backdrop of a deep
economic crisis, with Venezuelans suffering a fourth year of
recession, widespread shortages of basic foods and medicines,
the world's worst inflation, and long lines at shops.
Having been impeded from reaching the National Assembly on
Tuesday, lawmakers headed to the building in downtown Caracas
from daybreak on Wednesday, some with head-wounds or bandaged
arms from the clashes of recent days.
"These injuries are nothing," said one lawmaker Juan
Requesens, who received more than 50 stitches after being hit by
a stone when pro-government supporters confronted protesters at
the public ombudsman's office earlier this week.
"We are going to keep fighting for change, opposing the
repression and the dictatorship, for Venezuela and for
Venezuelans. We demand immediate elections," he added on his way
into the session at 6.30 a.m.
The Penal Forum rights group said 18 people were still
behind bars on Wednesday after a wave of detentions around the
country but mostly in Caracas. At least 20 people were injured
on Tuesday, its head Alfredo Romero told Reuters.
The head of the hemispheric Organization of American States
and global rights group Amnesty International both condemned
Venezuela for excessive repression.
But Interior Minister Nestor Reverol denied that, calling
instead for one opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, to be
prosecuted for blocking streets, including an ambulance.
"The exemplary behavior, capacity and training of our
citizens' security organs prevented the unpredictable
consequences of these terrorist groups," he added.
The South American OPEC nation's political standoff took a
new twist last week when the Supreme Court ruled that it was
taking over the legislature's functions.
That touched off an international outcry, and the tribunal
quickly scrubbed the offending clauses.
But dozens of previous rulings overturning National Assembly
measures have anyway left it powerless, and opposition leaders
say recent events have shown the world Maduro's autocratic face.
Lawmakers were expected to approve a motion later on
Wednesday asking for the removal of Supreme Court judges for
"the breaking of Venezuela's constitutional order".
But that would anyway be symbolic only given they require
the support of other institutions that are behind Maduro.
The president says his foes are seeking a coup with the
connivance of Washington and compliant foreign media.
During an activity in rural Apure state, Maduro told
supporters they were "in battle" against "imperialism."
"From the north, they have given the order to the defeated,
fascist right wing to fill the streets of Venezuela with
violence," he said late on Tuesday. "But peace triumphed."
Thousands of protesters had poured onto the streets of
Caracas on Tuesday. Security forces using teargas and
pepper-spray blocked them from reaching their rallying point.
Opposition leaders led demonstrators onto highways to block
traffic, and some youths donned masks and tossed stones in
skirmishes with police and soldiers around the city.
(Additional reporting by Andreina Aponte; Writing by Andrew
Cawthorne; Editing by Alistair Bell)