Venezuela crisis: Police fire tear gas as protests enter second day

Police in Venezuela have fired tear gas during the second day of violent protests in the capital, Caracas.

Three people were killed on Wednesday when opponents of President Nicolas Maduro took to the streets to march.

The huge protests in Caracas and western Venezuela come amid a serious economic crisis in the country.

Opposition leaders have accused Mr Maduro of ruling the country like a dictator; the president says opponents are trying to topple him by force.

Venezuela's opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, earlier this week called on the public to take part in anti-government protests across the country to press their demands for early presidential elections and the release of jailed politicians.

Opposition leaders blame the government for Venezuela's high inflation, rampant crime and shortages of basic goods.

They have four key demands:

  • Removal from office of Supreme Court justices who issued a ruling stripping the National Assembly of its powers (the ruling has since been revoked)
  • General elections in 2017
  • Creation of a "humanitarian channel" to allow medication to be imported to counter the severe shortages in Venezuela
  • Release of all the "political prisoners"

The government and its supporters blame imperialist forces led by the United States for the dismal state of the economy and say they are victims of an "economic war" being waged against them.

They have vowed to "defend the Bolivarian Revolution".

As previous attempts at dialogue between the government and the opposition have failed it is hard to see fresh negotiations starting anytime soon.

The National Electoral Council could try to defuse the situation by setting a date for regional elections, which had originally been expected to be held last December.

But for the immediate future, belligerent rhetoric and protests are likely to continue.