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    Venezuelan oppositions vows to keep up pressure on Maduro

    Thursday’s protest, the largest in years, filled dozens of city blocks in Caracas, and the opposition promised more actions.
    CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS/reuters
    Thursday’s protest, the largest in years, filled dozens of city blocks in Caracas, and the opposition promised more actions.

    CARACAS — Venezuela’s opposition is vowing to keep up pressure on President Nicolas Maduro after flooding the streets of Caracas with demonstrators Thursday in its biggest show of force in years.

    Protesters filled dozens of city blocks in what was dubbed the ‘‘taking of Caracas’’ to pressure electoral authorities to allow a recall referendum against Maduro this year. Protesters, dressed mostly in white and carrying Venezuelan flags, chanted, ‘‘It’s going to fall, it’s going to fall, the government is going to fall.’’

    The buildup to the protest was tense. Maduro’s government jailed several prominent activists, deployed security forces across the city, and warned of bloodshed.

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    There were few immediate signs of violence, though Maduro told a much smaller rally of state workers and hard-core supporters that opponents are plotting a coup such as the one that briefly toppled his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez, in 2002.

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    Maduro said authorities had arrested people possessing military fatigues and C4 explosives, and who had plans to fire upon the crowds dressed as national guard members..

    ‘‘Today we’ve defeated a coup attempt that sought to fill Venezuela and Caracas with violence and death,’’ Maduro told his supporters without providing details about the accusations. ‘‘We’re still looking for several criminals that paid to massacre the people.’’

    Caracas political analyst Dimitris Pantoulas said the ‘‘warlike’’ language may have actually energized opponents who otherwise might be on vacation or, at a time of economic crisis, standing in long lines for food.

    ‘‘The government made a big mistake by throwing fuel onto the flames,’’ Pantoulas said.

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    As the rally was wrapping up, the head of the opposition Democratic Unity alliance outlined the next steps in its campaign to force Maduro from office.

    ‘‘Today is the beginning of the definitive stage of our struggle,’’ Jesus Torrealba told supporters.

    He called for a nationwide demonstration of pot-banging Thursday night to protest growing hunger. There are also plans for two more street protests, including one Sept. 14 coinciding with the arrival of heads of state from around the world for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement taking place on the Caribbean island of Margarita.

    Associated Press