After weeks of power cuts and limited access to water, tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets on Saturday to back opposition leader Juan Guaido and protest against President Nicolas Maduro, who they accuse of wrecking the economy.
Venezuelans, already suffering from hyperinflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine, say the crisis has worsened over the past month. That is when crippling nationwide power outages began to leave vast swathso of territory in the dark for days at a time, cutting off water supplies and cell phone service.
Guaido, head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly and recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state by most Western nations, had called for rallies on Saturday to mark the start of what he has billed as a new wave of “definitive” protests to oust Maduro.
Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, denouncing Maduro as a “usurper” for beginning a second term after a 2018 election widely considered fraudulent. Maduro, who retains the support of the military and allies including Russia and China, has derided Guaido as a U.S. puppet and said he will face justice.
In Caracas, thousands of opposition supporters assembled at a main rally point in the eastern El Marques district. Protesters said their homes had been without water for days and many had taken to drawing it from unsanitary pipes or streams running off the Avila mountain overlooking Caracas.
“We have to get rid of this usurper, and we can’t think about anything else,” said Claudia Rueda, a 53-year-old homemaker at the protest.