Tens of thousands of people — both opponents and supporters of the government of President Nicolas Maduro — demonstrated on Saturday in the Venezuelan capital.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, a rival politician defeated by Mr. Maduro in last year’s presidential election, said there were millions of reasons to protest, but he demanded that the demonstrations remain peaceful.
The government shouldn’t be given an excuse for repression, said Mr. Capriles, who was accompanied by Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Elsewhere in the city Defence Minister Carmen Melendez led a demonstration of women sympathetic to the government.
“The women are in the streets as patriots of peace,” said Mr. Melendez.
Mr. Maduro on Saturday called for a “national conference for peace” involving all societal groups to take place on Wednesday in order to stop the violence. However, he did not expressly invite the opposition to participate.
In response to a statement issued by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Mr. Maduro said Venezuela is to be respected, adding “Yankee go home.” Mr. Kerry had expressed concern over the situation in the South American country and accused the government of using force against peaceful demonstrations.
The deaths on Saturday of two people involved in anti-government protests brought to 10 the number of people killed since the unrust began last week.
A student allegedly shot in the face by military police on Wednesday succumbed to her injuries, the student’s doctors reported. The other death reported Saturday occurred in Caracas when a man drove a motorcycle into barbed wire stretched across a street by demonstrators, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said.
The number of people injured in the demonstrations was 134, Attorney General Luisa Ortega said Friday. A total of 124 people have been arrested since February 11.
The anti-government demonstrators are protesting poor economic conditions in the country, a tense security situation and an increasingly authoritarian style of government.
Mr. Maduro has accused demonstrators of staging a coup d’etat to topple his government. The opposition, in turn, has denounced disproportionate repression of protests and attacks on demonstrators by armed government supporters.