Biggest demo in decades pressures venezuela president

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OPPONENTS of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed to have mobilised a million demonstrators Thursday in the biggest rally in decades, demanding a referendum on removing him from power.

Police deployed in their hundreds to keep apart anti-government protesters angry at food and medicine shortages from Maduros supporters who vowed to defend his socialist revolution. The rallies raised fears of violence in the oil-rich South American state, where anti-government protests in 2014 led to clashes with police that left 43 people dead.

The leader of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable, Jesus Torrealba, told AFP it was the biggest rally in recent decades with between 950,000 and 1.1 million people taking part.

Demonstrators dressed in white marched in the east of the capital, yelling Venezuela is hungry and This government is going to fall.

We either come out to march or we will die of hunger. We are no longer afraid of the government, said one demonstrator, Ana Gonzalez, 53.

The rallies come at a highly volatile time for Venezuela, where a plunge in prices for oil exports has caused shortages, violent crime and outbreaks of looting.

This is a historic march. Today begins a definitive stage in this struggle, Torrealba said.