Carlos Paparoni (C, in yellow), deputy of the Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties (MUD), clashes with Venezuelan National Guards during a protest outside the food ministry in Caracas, Venezuela March 8, 2017.REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
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A dozen activists alight surreptitiously from cars, walk determinedly toward Venezuela's heavily guarded Food Ministry, and dump two bags of garbage at its front entrance.The midmorning fracas in a working-class district of Caracas is the latest of near-weekly "surprise" protests by the opposition this year intended to embarrass Maduro, galvanize street action and highlight Venezuela's litany of problems.Maduro and other senior government officials routinely denounce opposition activists as coup-plotters, intent on bringing down socialism in Venezuela.The party's more than 150,000 activists take inspiration from successful models of non-violent protest abroad such as those in the 1980s by then-trade union leader Lech Walesa against communism in Poland and opposition in Chile to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.Such heady comparisons, though, seem far-fetched in Venezuela right now where not just government officials but even some cynical opposition supporters scoff at the flash protests as ineffectual stunts.Even though the opposition coalition proved it had majority support by winning legislative elections at the end of 2015, and despite the disastrous state of Venezuela's economy, the prospect of political change has dimmed this year.
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