Venezuelan troops dispersed opposition demonstrators with tear gas on Tuesday and blocked anti-government activist Maria Corina Machado, recently stripped of her seat in the National Assembly, from reaching the legislature.
National Guard soldiers surrounded a rally of opposition sympathizers who had planned to march into downtown Caracas to protest at Machado's expulsion from Congress, preventing them from leaving and clearing the square with tear gas.
Parliament stripped Machado of her post last week on charges she violated the constitution by accepting an invitation from Panama to speak against the government of President Nicolas Maduro at a meeting of the Organization of American States.
The opposition leader dismissed that process as an illegal maneuver by a dictatorial government and vowed to attend a session of the legislature today. She was stopped from doing so by a line of troops several blocks from the parliament.
I want to thank every citizen for their support and strength! she said on Twitter as her supporters gathered.
Today I am more a deputy than ever, and I will continue to be one until the people decide otherwise.
Anti-government protests began in Venezuela in mid February over shortages of basic items and high crime levels. The protests have decreased in intensity in the last few weeks as opposition demonstrators grow weary. At least 39 people have been killed in the demonstrations, including protestors and security officers, plus hundreds of injured and arrested.
There are growing international concerns about the beating and torturing of students and other protestors by President Maduro's National Guard. The Attorney General has admitted inquiries into a few cases.
The director of local pollster Datanalisis said this month that Maduro's approval rating dropped to 41.5% in March from around 47% in February, according to local media.
That decline may be less the result of the protests, however, and more a reflection of economic problems including inflation of 57% and shortages of staples ranging from flour to toilet paper.