CARACAS, Venezuela, Sept. 1 (UPI) — The Venezuelan opposition expects at least 1 million people to flood the streets of Caracas on Thursday despite road blocks placed by President Nicolas Maduro‘s regime.
The Venezuelan opposition’s “Taking of Caracas” protest has been met with road blocks and metro station closures. Opposition members have called for peaceful protests and urged the regime not to use violence against demonstrators.
Venezuela’s constitution decrees authorities are not allowed to use weapons or toxic substances, such as tear gas, to repel peaceful protestors but Maduro’s Interior and Justice Minister Gen. Nestor Reverol — who was indicted in the United States on cocaine trafficking charges — recently said government intelligence suggests there could be acts of “violence and destabilization.”
A coalition of 28 Venezuelan non-governmental organizations, including the Venezuelan Institute for Social and Political Studies, has urged Maduro’s regime to not react violently if protestors remain peaceful.
“We remind the police and state security bodies, whose duty is not to interfere but to facilitate the free development of the demonstration … the use of firearms and toxic gases in peaceful demonstrations is prohibited by [the Venezuelan constitution], in international treaties on human rights,” the coalition said in a statement.
Though the president of Metro de Caracas said subway routes would operate normally on Thursday, the transport authority closed at least four stations in Caracas’ Line 1, one of the city’s most used routes.
The transport authority said it closed the stations “in defense of users, personnel and facilities” but the opposition has accused the agency, which operates under Maduro’s Ministry of Transport and Public Works, of attempting to hinder the protest.
The opposition protest is being held to demand Venezuela’s National Electoral Council move ahead with the process of holding a recall referendum against Maduro before the end of the year.
“There is our people walking to arrive to Caracas! There is the force of change dodging barricades and road blocks!” Henrique Capriles Radonski, governor of Venezuela’s Miranda state and a key opposition leader, said in a statement. “Awaken Maduro, if he could sleep. It is all of Caracas mobilized for the recall! To have a true homeland!”
Maduro’s administration has said the protest is a coup d’etat attempt facilitated by the United States.
— Gitanjali Wolfermann (@GITIW) September 1, 2016