Nicolas Maduro’s opponents, supporters hold recall rallies in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela, Sept. 8 (UPI) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro‘s opponents and supporters on Wednesday held rallies nationwide in which some violence occurred as part of recall referendum efforts.

The Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition, known as MUD, held rallies in Venezuela’s 23 states and the capital, Caracas, where opponents of Maduro’s regime traveled to the individual provisional headquarters of the National Electoral Council, which controls the referendum process.

The opposition coalition needs to collect signatures from 20 percent, or about 4 million, of the voting-eligible population within a three-day petition drive to trigger a referendum that could remove Maduro from the presidency.

The MUD is demanding the electoral agency, known as the CNE, activate 14,000 voting centers housing 40,000 electronic voting machines to hold the petition drive.

In response to the opposition’s scheduled protests, the CNE closed its offices and Maduro’s supporters held their own regional rallies. Though most rallies held by Maduro’s opponents and supporters were peaceful, some violence was reported.

In the city of Coro in Venezuela’s Falc√≥n state, anti-Maduro and pro-Maduro marchers confronted each other. Rocks and bottles were thrown and several people were injured, El Universal reported. The groups each blamed the other for the violent incident.

Luis Stefanelli, a National Assembly opposition member, said security officials threw tear gas only at opposition members to disperse the violence.

“It is regrettable that the tear gas bombs were just thrown on our people,” Stefanelli said. “We got there because they called for a march on the same day and toward the same place as us and what they have done is an act of aggression.”

The protests in Venezuela on Wednesday were smaller — made up mostly of hundreds of people — in comparison to the opposition protest held last week in which more than 1 million Venezuelans participated.

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