In one of the biggest demonstrations yet against Venezuela’s ruling socialists, anti-government protesters from the Amazon jungle to the western Andes streamed into Caracas Thursday.
The right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable, estimated at least one million people, took part the march called the “Taking of Caracas.” Reuters reported “hundreds of thousands” flooded Caracas. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro estimated around 25,000 people showed up.
Although marchers demanded a plebiscite to oust Maduro, the president praised them for their non-violence. “Today, peace is victorious,” Maduro said after the march. “I send my sincere greeting to all those Venezuelans who think differently from us.,” he added.
Maduro expected much worse. All week he accused his opponents of plotting violence. It never materialized. Maduro credited Venezuela’s security services for thwarting a plot. “We have defeated an attempted coup that aimed to fill Caracas…with violence and death,” he said.
Maduro said authorities arrested people dressed in military fatigues who had C4 plastic explosives in their possession. He said the accused planned to fire upon the crowds dressed as national guard members. He didn’t identify any of the alleged plotters.
Violence erupted during anti-government protests in 2014, killing more than 40 people. Vandalism against public buildings and personal property caused millions in damages.
Ahead of Thursday’s protest, some international reporters, including those from Reuters, National Public Radio, Le Monde, and Al Jazeera say they were either denied entry to Venezuela, or “encouraged” to leave by government officials.
Among those taking part in the march, were some 100 members of the Piaroa and Jiwi indigenous tribes who travelled more than 375 miles (600 kilometers) — by foot, canoe and bus — from the Amazon rainforest.
“The people did not stay at home, they went into the streets and they always will,” said Maduro.
Story written with reporting from Xinhua, The Associated Press, AFP, The Miami Herald, and NPR.