People demonstrate against President Nicolas Maduro, in Merida, Venezuela, September 7, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Rival demonstrations have been staged in Venezuela for and against President Nicolas Maduro as the opposition pushes for a vote on forcing him out of office.
Venezuelans from opposing camps took to the streets in cities across the country on Wednesday.
Despite heavy military presence and reports of rallies going off without incident, police used metal barriers to keep hundreds of demonstrators from the two sides apart.
“We are demanding on the streets that the leaders of the National Electoral Council respect the people’s will and set a date for the recall referendum,” said a protester in the town of Los Teques, southwest of the capital, referring to the electoral body tasked with sanctioning and organizing the referendum to oust Maduro.
The supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (background) shout slogans on the streets while opposition supporters (foreground) take part in a rally to demand a referendum to remove Maduro, in Los Teques near Caracas, Venezuela, September 7, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)
“The Venezuelan people want to recall this government, we want to recall hunger, we want to recall misery, we want to recall insecurity, inequality,” said another protester.
The Latin American country has been experiencing an acute economic crisis, with shortages of basic goods and medicine.
“I support my President Maduro because we can’t return to the past with these leaders who want nothing good for our people,” said a pro-government protester in Caracas.
Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro demonstrate in Los Teques, Miranda State, Venezuela, September 7, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Maduro has accused the United States of plotting against leftist governments, including his, in Latin America.
The latest rallies come as electoral authorities have indicated it was too late to organize a recall vote this year.
Maduro’s opponents, meanwhile, are racing to call a referendum before January 10, as a successful recall vote before that deadline would trigger new elections rather than the transfer of power to the incumbent vice president.
Since 2014, Venezuela has been grappling with protests against Maduro, who is under fire by his critics for his handling of the economy.

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