Opposition, pro-govt rallies grip Venezuela

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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks next to a painting of the late Hugo Chavez, during a news conference at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. Speaking Friday to international media, Maduro called out what he said was a “campaign of demonization to isolate the Bolivarian revolution.” (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks next to a painting of the late Hugo Chavez, during a news conference at Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. Speaking Friday to international media, Maduro called out what he said was a “campaign of demonization to isolate the Bolivarian revolution.” (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelans on both sides of the nation’s political divide are taking to the streets after nearly two weeks of mass protests that have President Nicolas Maduro scrambling to reassert his leadership.

In Caracas, tens of thousands of government opponents filled several city blocks Saturday in their biggest rally so far against Maduro’s 10-month-old government. Across town, a mostly female crowd gathered in red T-shirts and matching baseball caps representing the color of Maduro’s Socialist party.

The protests follow a weeklong crackdown on the opposition that saw the jailing of hard-line leader Leopoldo Lopez and the arrests of dozens of activists. Opposition leaders are calling on Maduro to either resolve problems such as rising crime and galloping inflation or step aside.

Associated Press

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