Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles, banned for 15 years from office, has been at the forefront of demands for President Nicolas Maduro to step down and for new elections to be held in the restive Latin American country.

Police fired tear gas at these demonstrators, and they fought back by throwing rocks.
Police fired tear gas at these demonstrators, and they fought back by throwing rocks. (TRT World and Agencies)

Protesters hurling rocks clashed with police firing tear gas on Saturday in Venezuela's fourth demonstration in a week against President Nicolas Maduro and his government.

The latest rally, scheduled earlier in the week, was marked by anger over a ruling from the leftist government banning opposition leader Henrique Capriles from office for 15 years. Several thousand people attended the demonstration.

Capriles narrowly lost the 2013 presidential election that brought Maduro to power following the death of his mentor Hugo Chavez – father of Venezuela's "socialist revolution."

The government move, which the 44-year-old Capriles announced on Friday, effectively prevents him from running against Maduro in next year's general election.

Saturday's violence broke out when protesters gathered in the east of the city changed course at Capriles's request and headed downtown toward the government ombudsman's office. Police fired tear gas at these demonstrators, and they fought back by throwing rocks.

"They received us with gas and rubber bullets. They insist on siding with the dictatorship but we are going to keep moving forward," said opposition lawmaker Juan Andres Mejia.

TRT World's Juan Carlos Lamas has more details.

Ban galvanises protests

Banned from office, Capriles appeared energised by the protests.

"He who laughs last, laughs best! We'll see you on the streets of Venezuela @nicolasmaduro. There will be no rest," Capriles promised on Twitter.

Capriles was also one of the leaders of mass demonstrations earlier this week against Maduro that led to clashes with police. One protester died.

State comptroller Manuel Galindo imposed the ban due to alleged "administrative irregularities" by Capriles in his job as governor of the northern state of Miranda.

Capriles said that he would appeal the decision and stay in his job as governor, which he has held since 2008.

Crisis deepens

Venezuela's political crisis intensified last week when the supreme court issued rulings curbing the powers of the opposition-controlled legislature.

The court has consistently ruled in Maduro's favour since the opposition majority took its seats in the national assembly legislature in January 2016.

It drew international criticism for last week's rulings, which seized the assembly's powers and revoked lawmakers' immunity from prosecution.

Capriles can appeal against his sanction within two weeks to the comptroller and within six months to the Supreme Court.

The collapse in prices for Venezuela's crucial oil exports has sapped the country's revenues.

Ordinary Venezuelans are suffering from shortages of food, medicine and basic goods along with a surge in violent crime.

The opposition blames Maduro for the economic crisis. He says it is due to a capitalist conspiracy backed by the United States.

Source: AFP