By several media accounts, hundreds of thousands of anti-Maduro demonstrators flooded city streets to protest bread scarcity, ballooning inflation - which several estimates peg at triple digits - and what they see as an increasingly dictatorial regime.
The protests are expected to be the biggest in three years, putting extra pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to negotiate with the opposition and find a way of easing the country's economic crisis.
A 23-year-old woman identified as Paola Ramirez was killed by gunfire from pro-government groups circling protesters in the western city of San Cristobal, the town's mayor told The Associated Press. "I have to send her food (and) toilet paper from here, from the United States, so she can have it there".
The President signed orders late Tuesday activating the "green phase" of military plans to defend the South American country against what he described as US-backed attempts to sow chaos and overthrow him.
He said there is a real worry that the situation could escalate, with more conflict between the opposition and pro-government groups, known as colectivos, which the opposition accuses of operating as paramilitary groups.
On Tuesday, 11 Latin American nations on Tuesday asked Venezuela to hold elections to overcome the crisis.More news: Prince William And Lady Gaga Discuss Speaking Out About Mental Health
Capriles, who Deutsche Welle calls "the opposition's most promising candidate for the coming elections in 2018", was banned last week from holding office for 15 years - a move Capriles says he does not recognize. The other two people killed amid Wednesday's demonstrations included a teenager who was heading to a soccer match with friends.
"Today the coup plotters tried to take power again and we have defeated them", Maduro said.
Among opposition demands are that the Supreme Court judges be removed, the release of more than 200 political prisoners, delivery of humanitarian aid and new elections.
Speaking to thousands of militia members dressed in beige uniforms gathered in front of the presidential palace to mark the force's seventh anniversary, Maduro said it is time for Venezuelans to decide if they are "with the homeland" or against it.
The opposition is demanding a timeline for delayed elections, a halt a security crackdown on protests, and respect for the autonomy of the opposition-led legislature.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tells reporters at the State Department that the U.S.is "concerned that the government of Maduro is violating its own constitution and is not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard".More news: USS Carl Vinson carrier group expected off Korea at end of April
He didn't provide any evidence to back up the coup claims, and the opposition rejected them as desperate attempt to intimidate Venezuelans from exercising their constitutional right to protest. While analysts are getting anxious about what they see as increasingly distressed payments, some investors are betting on the country's "surreal" ability to pay and keep inking new deals with Caracas.
New administrations in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru notably started speaking up more about Venezuela in the previous year, in particular calling for the government to restore democratic order and hold regional elections.
"Those responsible for the criminal repression of peaceful democratic activity ... will be held individually accountable for their actions by the Venezuelan people and their institutions, as well as the global community", the statement read.
An opposition demonstrator clashes with riot police.
"The hour of combat has arrived", Maduro said.
He has also warned that an opposition government would slash social benefits like healthcare for the poor and subsidized food.More news: Turkish opposition party files to have referendum voided
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