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Thursday 20th
posted by James Tweedie in World

VENEZUELAN President Nicolas Maduro raised security on Tuesday night ahead of opposition regime change protests he accused the US of backing.

Mr Maduro reacted to threats from the US State Department of an “international response” if “peaceful protests” were halted before reaching the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas.

He said the US had drawn up a plan to install opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) coalition leader Julio Borges by blaming the government for violence whipped up by Mud militants.

The opposition planned to stage the “mother of all marches” yesterday which the United Socialist Party government feared would become a repeat of the April 11 2002 protest in Caracas.

After unidentified snipers fired on both pro- and anti-government marches at Llaguno Bridge in the capital that day, the armed forces used the incident as pretext to depose late president Hugo Chavez in a coup that lasted just two days.

Mr Maduro said he had activated the primary “green phase” of Plan Zamora — mobilising “all the military, police and civil structures of the Venezuelan state” in defence of peace and order.

“Confronted with this scenario, I have decided to activate the special strategic civic-military plan to guarantee the functioning of our country, its security, internal order and social integration,” he said.

Mr Maduro also called on his party’s supporters to take to the streets in a counter-demonstration against the regime change attempt.

A fortnight of Mud protests has caused five deaths and 50 billion bolivars (£3.9bn) of property damage, the president said on Sunday.