Thousands of Venezuelans flocked to the streets to Caracas today to protest against Maduro government, and to pressure authorities to allow the recall referendum against the president to take place this year.
The event – which the opposition called La Gran Toma de Caracas [The Great Takeover of Caracas] started at approximately 8:00 AM Caracas time, and officially ended at 2:00 PM.
Although estimates of exact size of the massive crowd are difficult to come by, images and videos from Caracas appear to show that today’s demonstration was likely one of the largest in the country’s history.
Despite repeated claims from the government that the opposition would attempt a coup d’etat today with the help of the United States government, the demonstration was overwhelmingly peaceful and no such attempt occurred.
Below, a video of the opposition crowd taken in Caracas today:
Below, another video showing the crowd from another angle:
Below, more images of today’s opposition demonstration in Caracas:
Opposition Calls for More Protests September 7
At the conclusion of today’s event, the head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, Jesus Torrealba, announced that the opposition’s next move would be to march to regional electoral offices to demand that the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) move ahead with the next step in the recall referendum against Maduro.
Torrealba made the announcement by saying:
Today marks the beginning of a definitive stage in our struggle.
Cabello Tweets Picture Of PSUV Rally From 2012
The PSUV held its own counter-protest in the Libertador municipality of Caracas. While Maduro spoke to a large crowd of supporters there, National Assembly deputy and PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello tweeted the following picture:
The tweet reads:
The Bolivar Avenue with our brother Nicolas Maduro. A free, sovereign people in peace.
With the words “with our bother Nicolas Maduro”, Cabello appeared to be suggesting that the image he tweeted was taken today, since Maduro spoke at the PSUV on Bolivar Avenue.
While it is difficult to tell from the images at today’s PSUV rally in Caracas, the crowds there today appear to be substantially smaller than the ones in 2012.
Below, actual images from today’s PSUV demonstration in Caracas.
Diosdado Cabello poses for a selfie with Minister of Foreign Relations Delcy Rodriguez:
Maduro speaking to the crowd:
Maduro To Lift Parliamentary Immunity Against Opp. Deputies
At today’s event, Maduro announced that he would decree the lifting of diplomatic immunity against opposition deputies, presumably with the goal of removing them from their elected posts and prosecuting them.
Maduro made the announcement by saying:
I have the decree ready to lift parliamentary immunity (…) no one is going to take refuge in parliamentary immunity so that they can commit crimes, because [immunity] is there to follow the law, not to break it.
Parliamentary immunity protects National Assembly deputies from criminal prosecution.Generally speaking, the point of parliamentary immunity is to allow legislators to speak frankly at congress without fearing, for example, libel or defamation lawsuits.
Parliamentary immunity does not grant deputies the ability to commit crimes. If a deputy is suspected of having committed a crime, he or she may be impeached by the National Assembly, which would revoke their immunity and leave them open to prosecution.
Maduro’s announcement suggests than rather than having the legislature decide whether or not a deputy should be impeached, he will simply make that decision himself.
Maduro Claims Victory For “Defeating Coup“
Maduro also claimed victory against the opposition today, since today’s protest unfolded relatively peacefully and did not devolve into a coup d’etat has he had claimed numerous times in the past.
Maduro said that the opposition had failed to “attack” Caracas, and mocked the opposition for not attempting to march in the western part of the city where most government buildings are, saying:
Those who threatened to attack Caracas stayed in Miranda state [the eastern part of the city]. They were in the east and we were in our homeland.
Speaking on the size of the opposition crowd, Maduro said that he had “evidence” that the opposition demonstration drew “between 25 and 30 thousand people”.
Video Shows Man Being Arrested
A video taken in the El Rosal neighbourhood of Caracas and shared by El Nacional shows a crowd of protesters running away from National Bolivarian Police officers on motorcycles.
At about the halfway point in the video, the officers catch up to a man and take him away:
It is not clear why the man was arrested, since he appears to have been picked randomly for detention.
Authorities Unsuccessfully Blocked Roads into Caracas
Caracas is situated in a valley, and is surrounded by very mountainous terrain. As a result, there are only a handful of roads leading into the city, making them natural bottlenecks during busy travel seasons.
Today, with the influx of protesters looking to participate in the protest, the bottlenecks were made even worse as National Guard and National Bolivarian Police officers blocked or otherwise slowed traffic into Caracas in an attempt to deter protesters from joining the main demonstration.
One heated confrontation between protesters and authorities took place in the La Cabrera tunnel, Carabobo state. The tunnel is on the main highway connecting Caracas to the western part of the country.
Since the early morning hours, National Bolivarian Police officers blocked the tunnel, making it impossible for traffic to get through. As a result, protesters on their way to Caracas from the west of the country grew frustrated.
Below, images from the scene early this morning:
The crowd was eventually make it through the police roadblock in time to make it to Caracas for the protest.
Five Subway Stations Close Despite Promise To Remain Open
On Monday, the Metro de Caracas announced that subway operations would not be affected at all by today’s protest, and that the Caracas subway would operate at 100% capacity during its regular hours today.
However, despite the promise to remain open, Caracas residents awoke today to find five stations in the city’s centre closed.
The affected stations were Chacaito, Chacao, Altamira, Miranda and Bello Monte. All of the stations are located near opposition rally points for today’s protest.
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