Intense photos show Venezuela being rocked by the 'mother of all protests'

Tens of thousands of opponents of President Nicolas Maduro flooded the streets of Caracas amid confusion and tear gas Wednesday for what they've dubbed the "mother of all marches" against the embattled socialist leader. Previous marches attempting the same route have been met with security vehicles, tear gas and rubber bullets fired by riot police officers. Dozens even had to slide down a concrete embankment and into the Guaire River to escape the noxious fumes.

Maduro, who along with his supporters called for the countermarch, had deployed the Venezuelan armed forces to the streets on Sunday night amid rising tensions.

In the same poll, 91 percent of Venezuelans said the country's economy is "getting worse", compared to 5 percent who said the economy is "getting better".

A teenager who was shot in the head in Caracas near one of the protests has died in the hospital, according to the Associated Press.

Maduro has faced growing protests since the socialist-controlled Supreme Court attempted to impose itself as the nation's legislative body last month, nullifying the power of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

In the eastern district of Bello Monte, the PNB and National Guard managed to drive the demonstrators back, forcing hundreds of them to jump into the polluted Guaire River that flows through the city to escape the police assault. They've called for another day of protests Thursday.

MARGARET WARNER: Maduro has blamed the USA for trying to foment a coup.

Maduro, addressing supporters at a large countermarch, seemed open to some sort of electoral showdown.

Over 400 people were arrested during yesterday's protests, rights group Penal Forum said. He was shot in the head, they said, and three security officials said he later died in a clinic after undergoing surgery.

Marchers in the opposition demonstration in Caracas included Liliana Machuca, who earns about $20 a month holding two jobs teaching literature. Although she doesn't expect change overnight, she said protesting is the only option the opposition has after what she says are scores of abuses committed by the government.

The public prosecutor's office has called for an investigation into the shooting.

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"The opposition is trying to provoke a conflict but they aren't going to achieve their goal", said Marquez, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the eyes of the late Hugo Chavez, a symbol of revolutionary zeal in Venezuela.

The plant in the central city of Valencia was confiscated on Wednesday as anti-government protesters clashed with pro-government groups in a country battered by economic troubles including food shortages and triple-digit inflation.

"The U.S. government, the State Department have given the green light, the approval for a coup process to intervene in Venezuela", said Maduro, citing a State Department communique issued Tuesday titled "Non-Violence and Accountability During Protests in Venezuela". "In Venezuela, there is no peace, no justice", he said.

Mr Maduro says that beneath a peaceful facade, the protests are little more than opposition efforts to start a coup to end socialism in Venezuela.

"Tomorrow at the same time we are summoning the whole Venezuelan people to mobilize", senior opposition leader Henrique Capriles told a news conference.

He has also warned that an opposition government would slash social benefits like healthcare for the poor and subsidized food.

Maduro said this week that he would increase the size of a citizen militia that supports the government to 500,000 members and give each cadet a gun.

At a counter march of government supporters downtown, Energy Minister Luis Motta Dominguez told lines of protesters that reports about the young man were false.

"Those responsible for the criminal repression of peaceful democratic activity, for the undermining of democratic institutions and practices, and for gross violations of human rights, will be held individually accountable for their actions by the Venezuelan people and their institutions, as well as by the global community", the U.S. State Department said in a statement Tuesday.

"We are concerned that the government of Maduro is violating its own constitution and is not allowing the opposition to. organize in a way that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people", Tillerson told a news conference.

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