At least three people have been killed in Venezuela in protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
The opposition, which accuses President Nicolas Maduro of creating a dictatorship, asked people to hit Caracas streets Thursday morning - where thousands gathered the day before in what activists dubbed "the mother of all marches".
"It's time for the armed forces to realize that they're protecting corrupt leaders and not the Venezuelan people", said opposition lawmaker Jorge Millan, who represents part of the poor hilltop Caracas neighborhood of 23 de Enero, once a government stronghold.
Carlos Moreno, 18, a student, was leaving his home to play soccer in Caracas when armed government supporters approached a nearby opposition gathering and fired shots, according to witnesses.
"This is the moment", said Raquel Belfort, a 42-year-old protester in wealthier eastern Caracas on Thursday, sporting a hat in the yellow, blue and red colours of the Venezuelan flag. And at one of many protests outside the capital, a woman in her early 20s shot in the western city of San Cristobal.
"Opposition protesters say they've been roughed up, beaten and also threatened by these groups", Weddle said.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said via Twitter on Wednesday he had directed his exterior ministry to ask the United Nations secretary-general to address what he called the "worrying militarization of Venezuelan society".
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday in Washington that the U.S. was "concerned" about the situation.
Marches have repeatedly ended in clashes between demonstrators and security forces, with rock-throwing youths squaring off against tear-gas-lobbing security forces in confused melees that drag on well into the evening.
"Today there were millions of us", he told a news conference late on Wednesday.More news: LG sees best first quarter for almost eight years
Maduro's peers in Latin America - long silent on the country's crises - are starting to speak out too.
"The opposition's response to regional elections, which the National Electoral Council will probably call in the coming days, will be key to maintaining momentum in the streets".
Right-wing leaders had called today's demonstration in hopes of toppling the Bolivarian government but failed when pro-government forces also came out in defense of the country's sovereignty.
President Trump tweeted in February that Maduro should release his biggest adversary from prison, Leopoldo Lopez, who has been in jail since 2014. And this country, even if they don't want, we will change it.
Maduro didn't provide evidence to back his claim that a coup attempt was underway, and the opposition rejected his comments as a desperate attempt to intimidate Venezuelans from exercising their constitutional right to protest.
Maduro says the opposition is trying to topple his Socialist government, and he got his supporters to hold a counter-demonstration, although it attracted a considerably smaller crowd than the march calling for his resignation. Slideshow: Mother of all marches in Venezuela https://t.co/dvWQKn7qLg pic.twitter.com/mShqfTrjBp- Reuters Venezuela (@ReutersVzla) 19 avril 2017 Muere abaleada estudiante universitaria durante protestas antigubernamentales en #Venezuela: familiares y testigos pic.twitter.com/xQVRaQzZNJ- Reuters Venezuela (@ReutersVzla) 19 avril 2017 How many have died in total?? "We only care what the people say".
The U.S. State Department said those who commit human rights abuses and undermine Venezuela's democratic institutions would be held accountable.
There has been reports of violent clashes between protesters, government supporters and police.
Fears of violence spiked this week after Maduro said he would increase the size of a citizen militia that supports the government to 500,000 members and give each cadet a gun.