Tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas Wednesday in separate marches, with government supporters marching in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution and in rejection of right-wing opposition coup plans on the commemoration of 207 years of independence.
"Today the coup plotters tried to take power again and we have defeated them," President Nicolas Maduro said. "They once again took to the streets to break laws, to burn things, to stir violence."
While Chavistas gathered in central Caracas, opposition protesters convened in the city's more affluent east side, eventually taking over major roads and highways. Clashes broke out as small numbers of opposition protesters attempted to break police lines and head to the areas where government supporters were gathered. So far, there have been no confirmed reports of fatalities due to the protests.
Rumors spread that 19-year-old Carlos Moreno was killed in San Bernardino neighborhood amid the demonstrations, but local journalists reported that he was not participating in the protests. Although there are conflicting reports some family members said he had gone out to play soccer when he was shot in the head during an attempted robbery of his motorcycle. He reportedly died from injuries in the hospital.
A second death, Paola Andreina Ramirez was confirmed in Tachira state. "The woman did not participate in the protest, she was four blocks from the protest and safely sheltered in the Plaza San Carlos ... with other people when the fighting started," a journalist at the scene told EFE. There are no confirmed reports on the events that led to her death and the public ministry has opened an official investigation into the events.
In a separate incident, a pro-government demonstrator was seriously injured when she was hit in the head with a bottle thrown from a building. Venezuelan journalist Roman Camacho reported that the woman was taken to the hospital in critical condition. RT journalists reported seeing opposition demonstrators throwing things from buildings, which were later confirmed to be glass jars and ice jars.
The opposition's "Mega March" calling for Maduro's ouster comes after more than a week of violent protests that have left several dead and caused an estimated 50 billion bolivars in damages. Among the fatalities is a one-year-old boy who was shot and killed when opposition protesters entered a social housing complex during the protests and an 83-year-old woman who died after not being able to receive medical attention due to opposition roadblocks.
A high school, a community health center, various subsidized food markets and several government offices have also been attacked, authorities said.
Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the Chavista march will be a "lesson" to those who "promote intervention, but also to the imperial powers that today dare to stuck their noses where no one has asked them to."
Rodriguez said Venezuela would defend its sovereignty in any scenario, even if it's not as part of the Organization of American States. The head of the regional bloc, Luis Almagro, has been working with Venezuelan opposition leaders to spearhead a campaign to apply the so-called "Democratic Charter" against the country, effectively removing Venezuela from the OAS.
Venezuelan leaders maintain this is part of a plot to justify an intervention.
"The project for Venezuela is not to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, but rather the intervention and permanent tutelage that will prevent Venezuela from continuing to develop its project of a great nation, its Bolivarian project, but also what it has meant as an ideological reference for the region," said Rodriguez.
On Tuesday, President Maduro accused the U.S. government had "given the green light" for a coup in the country, and said that security forces had arrested an “armed commando group sent by the opposition in order to attack the mobilization called by the right-wing for Wednesday to generate violence and deaths in the country.”