CARACAS – A Venezuelan opposition leader recently expelled from the National Assembly led a march Tuesday toward congress, where she was denied access after police drove away her supporters with tear gas and pellets.
Maria Corina Machado addressed hundreds of her supporters and other opposition lawmakers in a Caracas square prior to the march.
“Right now, as your representative, I will go with my fellow representatives to the National Assembly because I have the right and I have the duty to be your voice. You can be sure they will try to silence me, to quiet us, to crush us, but our strength will gain that much more energy,” she said.
Machado marched with a crowd of followers, dodging around a number of police cordons until the demonstration was repressed with tear gas.
She, however, managed to reach one of the entrances to the area where the assembly meets while being insulted by groups of government supporters, but was then informed by congressional security guards that “civilians” were not allowed entry.
Machado finally left the area on a motorcycle without ever getting inside the assembly.
The assembly, where government supporters are in the majority, voted last week to oust Machado after she sought a Panamanian diplomatic credential to attend a session of the Organization of American States.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court subsequently upheld her expulsion from congress.
Machado said she wanted to tell the OAS about the crisis Venezuela has been going through since Feb. 12, when an anti-government protest was followed by violence, but the majority of OAS member-states refused to consider the situation in the Andean nation.
Protests against the leftist government of President Nicolas Maduro have had, up to now, 39 fatalities and hundreds of wounded.
Fatalities include both opponents and supporters of the government, as well as bystanders and members of the security forces.
Authorities have charged more than a dozen police and soldiers with violating the human rights of demonstrators, while the government likewise accuses radical opposition elements of fomenting violence.
In a related development, Aragua state Gov. Tareck El Aissami announced Tuesday the arrest of six people and the confiscation of “more than 100 tons” of explosives.
“We have dealt a hard blow against terrorism,” the former Venezuelan interior minister said, adding that police seized “all kinds of explosives” and suitcases with electric devices to detonate bombs by remote control.
He said that among those arrested were two leaders of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, whom he identified as William Ricardo Sanchez Ramos and Eduard Jose Tovar Vargas.
The explosives were found in a warehouse belonging to an uncle of Tovar Vargas, the governor, a Maduro ally, said.