Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government blamed the National Guard for the violent dispersal of protesters during protests against his government in Venezuela’s southern oil-rich Central American nation on Tuesday, a day after a deadly shooting left at least 23 people dead.
Maduro has blamed the protesters for the violence in the country’s biggest cities.
The National Guard, an armed paramilitary force, was deployed by the government to quell unrest in the southern state of Bolivar and to prevent Maduro from leaving power, Maduro said in a televised address.
The Guard had been deployed by Venezuela’s Supreme Court to quash protests by the Bolivarian National Assembly and to keep law and order at home, he said.
The Supreme Court’s decision to intervene to quel the unrest in Venezuela has stoked unrest in several states, and the opposition has accused Maduro of attempting to install a socialist regime.
But the government says the Guard is necessary to prevent the spread of a socialist dictatorship.
The opposition has blamed Maduro for the deaths of at least 11 people in the unrest.
Venezuela has seen at least 100 deaths in recent weeks after protests against Maduro escalated into a nationwide strike on March 2, the latest in a series of protests and sit-ins that have sparked nationwide protests.
Venezuela’s opposition accuses Maduro of using a brutal crackdown on the protests to prop up his political party, which is controlled by his brother and is opposed to the government.
In the wake of the violence, Maduro called on Venezuelans to join the protests.
“Let us be ready to defend the right to protest,” he said on state television.
“Our people will be ready.
Let us march.”
The protests have spread across Venezuela’s vast plains, cities and suburbs, with at least one killing in the city of Merida, home to more than 200,000 people, on Tuesday.
Many in the capital, Caracas, have turned out for the demonstrations.
Many of those who have gathered have been peacefully demonstrating since the March 2 violent dispersals of a protest in which at least 50 people were killed.
But some protesters have also been killed by police, and in some cases by their own security forces.