Venezuelans called to flood streets in anti-Maduro protest

Venezuela opposition targets judges over'coup

The order from the national comptroller's office cited "administrative irregularities" including breaking contracting laws and improper management of donations, according to a copy of the ban.

Venezuelan authorities on Friday banned a top opposition leader from public office for 15 years, the latest move in an increasingly tense power struggle in the crisis-hit country.

Lopez had been expected to challenge late leader Hugo Chavez in the 2012 presidential election but was forced to hand the baton over to Capriles, who lost that vote and another against Maduro in 2013 after Chavez's death. "But this move may well backfire, as Capriles is likely to harness this smear campaign to place himself front and center in the push to hold transition elections".

Venezuelan opposition leader and two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said on Friday he has been banned from holding political office for 15 years, amid what critics say is a crackdown on dissent by the leftist government, reports Reuters. A 19-year-old man was shot dead in violence around protests on Thursday, and a police officer hasbeen arrested.Rights group Penal Forum says nearly 100 people have been arrested during protests in the last few days. He said followers of "little Capriles" were seeking a bloodbath.

The opposition blames Maduro for the economic crisis. Oil-rich Venezuela is in the throes of what is thought to be a fourth straight year of recession, with roaring inflation and monthly wages stuck at a handful of dollars at the black market rate. She said she's thinking about joining a sister and scores of college friends who have left the South American country to seek a better future.

While she said she was hopeful the world was beginning to see the injustices in Venezuela, her father, Carlos Paez, was more pessimistic. In contrast, past demonstrations were planned weeks head to guarantee high turnout. But now the almost-daily churn of events in what's being called the "ongoing coup" — the government's alleged moves to accumulate more power — energized and united the normally fractious opposition leading up to Saturday's march. Being barred from office does not involve imprisonment, though authorities routinely accuse Capriles of conspiring against the government and fomenting violence.

The protests were sparked by Supreme Court's decision last week to dissolve the Congress in Venezuela, which is controlled by opposition politicians.

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Addressing a crowd before Saturday's demonstration, which drew thousands, Capriles said "Nobody can disqualify the Venezuelan people".

"We have to escape from it by civil protests, exercising our constitutional functions and not giving in to a failed, outlaw government".

Dubbed a "traffic jam against the coup", Thursday's demonstration was comprised largely of a slightly an older crop of protesters, many of whom carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the unrelenting tropical sun.

Those protests have revived fears of broader unrest in Venezuela, where 43 people were killed during riots in 2014.

"This is a dictatorship", Juan Requesens, a wounded lawmaker, wrote on Twitter.

Coming at a time of deep political and economic malaise in what was once one of Latin America's richest democracies, the judicial overreach was met with mass outrage - even from Venezuela's attorney general, a long time Maduro supporter.

The Investigative Committee said the National Guard in the city of Astrakhan found the suspects, who refused to surrender and fired back at officers.

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