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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Venezuela protesters brave tear gas to call for Maduro's ouster

Venezuelan protesters demanded a referendum on ousting President Nicolas Maduro, defying riot police who fired tear gas and a state of emergency that the opposition has blasted as unconstitutional.

But Maduro warned that if anti-government acts turned violent "I will not hesitate" to ratchet up the extraordinary measures in force, "to fight for the peace and security of this country."

The opposition organized the demonstrations in Caracas and two dozen other cities and towns to press for a recall referendum against Maduro this year.

More than 1.8 million signatures calling for the vote have been gathered on a petition that was handed to the National Electoral Council (CNE) two weeks ago.

Police and soldiers using tear gas and pepper spray blocked around 1,000 demonstrators from marching on the CNE headquarters, journalists including AFP witnessed.

Some of the protesters threw rocks and bottles at the forces barricading them in.