CARACAS – Venezuelan police used tear gas on Friday to stop government opponents from bringing what they called the “March of the Liberators” to the Venezuelan capital’s largest military installation.
Organizers said the aim of the mobilization was to urge the members of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces to comply with Article 328 of Venezuela’s constitution, which describes the military as “an essentially professional institution, without political affiliation.”
Participants set out from four different points in Caracas with plans to converge at the Los Proceres monument, which honors the heroes of Venezuelan independence, located near the sprawling Ft. Tiuna army base and the military academy.
Opposition lawmaker Stalin Gonzalez, who led a column coming from the western part of the city, told Televen television the police stopped the procession on Victoria Avenue.
Without any warning, the police launched pepper spray and tear gas, the legislator said.
The deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Freddy Guevara, described a similar scene on the Francisco Fajardo highway in the eastern part of the capital, tweeting about “repression” by the police.
Another opposition congressman, Carlos Paparoni, was among 36 people injured in the confrontations between police and protesters, according to authorities in the capital municipality of Baruta.
While police battled foes of the government, partisans of leftist President Nicolas Maduro marched to Miraflores palace to express support for the head of state’s bid to convene a constituent assembly with authority to amend the constitution.
The opposition-controlled legislature rejects the idea of a constituent assembly and accuses Maduro of attempting to carry out a coup.
Violence associated with nearly two months of political turmoil in the oil-rich yet economically ailing Andean nation has left 58 people dead and more than 1,000 injured.
Maduro’s information minister, Ernesto Villegas, said on Friday that a majority of those killed so far have been government supporters, police, and members of the public with no connection to the protests.