EU Urges Calm in Venezuela Amid Opposition Crackdown

Anna Polga fled political persecution in Caracas and is now a permanent resident in Canada.

Security forces have been using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds, while several opposition leaders have been roughed up and bloodied while participating in demonstrations.

Last week, the Venezuelan government was forced to walk back an earlier attempt to strip Venezuela's legislature of its powers, after the move sparked massive outrage at home and overseas.

On Friday, two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles was barred from running for public office for 15 years amid an intense campaign waged by the government tying him to the protest movement that has grown into the most contentious since a wave of unrest in 2014.

Human rights organizations and countries including the United States are calling on Venezuela to allow protesters to gather and refrain from unnecessary use of force, adding to mounting worldwide pressure for the Andean nation's government to hold elections and respect democratic institutions. It said 40 people will be charged for "acts of violence" in Monday's unrest. Capriles tweeted Sunday. "No to the self-coup!"

Despite the surge in protests, many Venezuelans are pessimistic that marches can bring about change, scared of violent clashes, or simply too busy trying to find food.

"We need to get out on the street and fight, to tell these people we don't want them", said Maria Guedez, a 67-year-old homemaker carrying a sign that read, "No more dictatorship".

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The protesters demand elections among other things. "An 87-year-old woman died inside her apartment in Colinas de Bello Monte".

Such countries as Colombia, Chile and Mexico expressed their concern over the court's decision, while Peru recalled its ambassador from Venezuela.

The ALBA-TCP includes Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nieves, Grenada, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, as well as Suriname as a guest member. "We can't accept a regime that is willing to sacrifice the lives of Venezuelans in order to perpetuate itself in power", he said in a video posted on his Twitter account.

The opposition coalition United Democracy Roundtable (MUD) won control of the legislature in December 2015 and since then has called for a referendum to remove Maduro and hold new elections.

A smaller group later moved to the upscale Altamira district, a common site for protests during the last 15 years, where demonstrators set up barricades of tires and burning trash along a major avenue.

"For the stability of this region, Venezuela needs a legitimate government", he said during a visit to Brazil.

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