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

Maduro was expected to address the counter march of government supporters later Wednesday, which is a holiday celebrating Venezuela's declaration of independence from Spain two centuries ago.

Julio Borges, president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, on Tuesday asked the country's armed forces, which have tacitly supported the government, to guarantee peaceful protest.

A pro-government politician and reservist, Diosdado Cabello, said on his television show that anti-Maduro activists had also "murdered" a soldier in San Antonio de los Altos, a town just south of Caracas, late Wednesday.

Protesters react to a helicopter trying to reach the ombudsman in Caracas.

Pro-government militias were blamed for two of the three recent deaths, a teenager and a woman, while a national guardsman was also killed.

Maduro didn't provide evidence to back his claim that a coup attempt was under way, and the opposition rejected his comments as a desperate attempt to intimidate Venezuelans from exercising their constitutional right to protest. "It is becoming a 21st-century dictatorship".

The renewed wave of protests was sparked by a Supreme Court move in March to assume the powers of the opposition-led Congress, a move that it largely reversed a few days later.

That move was later reversed amid overwhelming global rebuke and even a rare instance of public dissent in the normally disciplined ruling elite.

April 19 marks four years since Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's six-year term began-an anniversary thousands of Venezuelans are marking with massive protests throughout the country. Image credit: EFE/Cristian Hernandez.

Despite Wednesday's deadly violence, his opponents displayed their determination to ratchet up the pressure by calling for renewed protests on Thursday.

"The time for combat has arrived, compatriots", Maduro said.

"If we were millions today, tomorrow we'll be more", Mr Capriles added.

Carlos Moreno, an 18-year-old student, was leaving his home to play soccer in Caracas when armed government supporters, dubbed "colectivos", opened fire against a nearby opposition concentration and according to witnesses, Moreno was shot in the head.

Translation: "We have provided a fundamental backlash in the backbone of the coup that we have been already defeating", Maduro said during protests. "I left her on a block where she was going to find her sister and I went to hide the bike".

"She was shot in the head", a source in the public prosecutors' service told AFP.

Opposition marchers included Liliana Machuca, whose face was covered in a white, sticky substance to protect herself from the unsafe effects of tear gas. However, the government hasn't confirmed the other deaths at the moment. There's also criticism that the government isn't doing enough to restrain the collectives - motorcycle-driving militants - that have operated like shock troops firing on protesters as security forces stand by.

They were not the first to be felled in the course of the anti-Maduro protests that have been mounting since late last month.

Mr Maduro's opponents are pushing for his removal through early elections and the release of scores of political prisoners.

Just minutes after they started on Thursday, police deployed tear gas in an effort to slow their advance. Dozens even had to slide down a concrete embankment and into the Guaire River to escape the noxious fumes. The government has repeatedly blocked any attempts by the opposition to oust Maduro from power by a referendum vote.

Venezuela: Police firing teargas against a fleeing crowd in Caracas. The court partly backtracked after an global outcry, but the tension only increased when authorities slapped a political ban on opposition leader Henrique Capriles on April 7, 2017. "We're fed up. We want elections to get Maduro out, because he's destroyed this country", said protester Ingrid Chacon, a 54-year-old secretary.