Venezuelans protest after opposition leader sidelined by Maduro


April 8 (UPI) — Venezuela’s socialist government banned a prominent opposition leader from holding elective office for 15 years, the latest political crackdown in the country.

Henrique Capriles, a former state governor and two-time presidential candidate, said he was told by government authorities he would be barred from holding office for reasons that were not fully explained.

“I am informing the country and international community that they are notifying me at the moment of a disqualification for 15 years,” Capriles wrote on Twitter Friday.

Capriles had been a leading figure in the fight to recall President Nicholas Maduro, and had been regarded as the opposition’s best candidate to defeat Maduro in elections scheduled for next year, the BBC reported.

After Capriles made the announcement on Twitter, opposition protesters took to the streets, clashing with police Saturday. Officers used tear gas to force protesters to disband. Protesters have flooded the streets of the capital Caracas for more than a week, protesting power grabs by Maduro’s socialist government.

The rallies turned violent Thursday when a man was fatally shot by police.

Prior to the news Capriles had been sidelined from political action, protesters were furious over an attempt by the Maduro-backed Supreme Court to suspend the power of the nation’s Assembly. Facing stiff opposition, Maduro’s government backed down and restored the Assembly’s already-limited role in governing.

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