Venezuela's opposition is putting up its most determined challenge to President Nicolás Maduro in years, with near-daily protests that are backed by widening global condemnation of the government's authoritarian rule.
CARACAS, VENEZUELA-Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets in wealthy eastern Caracas Thursday amid a tropical downpour to support a protest movement that is gaining steam even as it turns more deadly.
Witnesses said residents of a number of working-class Caracas neighborhoods blocked streets with trash or burning debris, describing confused street melees and clashes with security forces.
As protests against Maduro intensified in the slums of the South American country on Wednesday, the death count for the week rose to four individuals after the state prosecution service confirmed two deaths that had occurred the day before.
However, the crisis deepened on Friday when authorities banned senior opposition figure Henrique Capriles from holding public office for 15 years, blocking him from running against Maduro in next year's election.
Dozens of people have been injured and more than 100 arrested since April 6, according to authorities. "We can't find food and sick people can't find medicine".
Mr Maduro's adversaries are demanding the government call delayed state elections, which polls suggest would not go well for the ruling Socialists.
Officials said Wednesday they were charging two police with killing a 20-year-old college student earlier in the week.
The strongest criticism has come from the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro.
"All this violence is erupting because they won't let the people have their say via elections", said the speaker of the opposition-majority legislature, Julio Borges, as he hand-delivered a petition to the National Guard headquarters calling on police to "stop the repression".
Socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello said on Twitter opposition members who "use violence and terrorism to impose (themselves) on the majority who want peace" should face the consequences of the law.
Another round of protests are planned for Thursday in more than 300 municipalities.
Maduro has drawn parallels with a brief coup against his predecessor - the late Hugo Chavez - in 2002, and warned that an opposition government would slash social benefits like health care for the poor and subsidized food.
In total, 364 people were arrested between April 4-12 during the most sustained protests since 2014, with 183 people still behind bars, Penal Forum added. Two sources told Reuters the protesters were hurling stones. Government opponents have taken to the streets across the country and have clashed with government forces.