CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s opposition is putting up its most determined challenge to President Nicolás Maduro in years, with near-daily protests that are backed by widening international condemnation of the government’s authoritarian rule.
Calling for early elections, the release of political prisoners and a return to democratic norms, thousands of Maduro’s opponents have repeatedly attempted to march toward downtown government buildings in Caracas in the past two weeks, only to be repelled by police truncheons and clouds of tear gas.
The protests in Caracas are the most intense since 2014, when more than 40 people were killed in clashes that erupted during a failed push to drive out Maduro. “This time, the opposition is not trying to seize power,” political analyst Carlos Romero said. “They have a specific agenda, and if they achieve their goals, the protests will be considered a success.”
Chronic shortages of food and medicine have made life miserable in a country with the world’s largest oil reserves, and Venezuela’s homicide rate and its inflation rate are among the highest in the world. Such ignominious distinctions reflect a broader unraveling of a nation that was once one of South America’s wealthiest — and is now one of its most desperate. …