Tue Apr 4, 2017 05:43PM
Bolivarian police agents hold their shields and prepare for confrontation during a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas on April 4, 2017. (AFP photo)
Bolivarian police agents hold their shields and prepare for confrontation during a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas on April 4, 2017. (AFP photo)

Police have used pepper spray to disperse people protesting against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela’s capital of Caracas.

Police blocked a march by opposition supporters to the compound of Venezuela’s National Assembly on Tuesday as lawmakers were preparing for a debate on removing pro-government judges from the Supreme Court.

Protesters pelted police with objects as officers tried to prevent the crowd from reaching an area where rival pro-government demonstrators were staging their own rally.

Anti-government protesters condemned the move last week by the Supreme Court to take over powers from the opposition-controlled Congress.

Mayor of one of Caracas’ districts said nine protesters were injured amid the scuffles with riot police.

The court has backtracked from its ruling but lawmakers in the Congress plan to discuss moves to try to fire judges from the court.

"All we're demanding is that our constitutional rights be respected," said a former politician during the Tuesday rally, asking the government to restore powers to the opposition majority in the Congress.

Venezuela's opposition activists clash with riot police agents during a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas on April 4, 2017. (AFP photo)

Reacting to the violent rallies, Maduro said “peace prevailed” in Venezuela despite what he called an attempt from “facist right” groups to fill the streets with violence.

The comments came after National Assembly President Julio Borges vowed to continue protests following the clashes.

The opposition in Venezuela has capitalized on the intensified economic problems in the oil-rich country over the past years. It blames the shortage of food and medicine on the policies of Maduro and has called on the military to drop its support for the embattled president. Maduro blames the opposition and its Western backers for the economic malaise.

The Supreme Court ruling has also sparked international criticism with the Organization of American States voicing concerns on Monday that Venezuela was moving toward authoritarianism. The 17-member regional body said the ruling was “incompatible with democratic practice.” The United States and allies, who have repeatedly criticized Maduro for lack of tolerance for political dissent, have also expressed similar concerns. 

Venezuela's leader, meanwhile, accuses the US of orchestrating an attempt to topple him as part of a wider offensive against Latin American leaders defying the US hegemony.