CARACAS, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 24th Jan, 2017 ) - Rivals and allies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro rallied in the streets Monday as the opposition demanded early elections to oust him over the country's economic and political crisis. It was the first coordinated street demonstration called by the opposition since Maduro launched a crackdown with the arrests of several of his opponents early this month. The protest came amid high tension in the South American oil-exporting country, where food and medicine shortages have sparked riots and looting over recent months.
Security forces blocked around 2,000 opposition supporters from marching to the headquarters of the National Electoral board in Caracas. The area was the scene of scuffles in demonstrations last year but no major incidents were reported on Monday. Similar marches were called across the country by the opposition MUD coalition. "I came because I want elections to be held," said Dora Valero, a 63-year-old retired nurse who marched in eastern Caracas.
"It is the best way to get rid of this government that has gotten us into such a bad situation." Several thousand supporters of Maduro dressed in red gathered elsewhere in central Caracas. They defended Maduro and the socialist "revolution" launched by his predecessor Hugo Chavez. "The people are in the street supporting the president," said one demonstrator, Pedro Camargo. "We will not let them end our revolution." The center right-dominated coalition has declared Maduro unfit for office due to his handling of the crisis, sparked by falling prices for Venezuela's crucial oil exports. But the socialist president has overruled all their efforts to hold a vote on removing him from office over the past year. He says the crisis is the result of a US-backed capitalist conspiracy.