Mr. Maduro has repeatedly called for dialogue, even holding a series of televised meetings that he calls peace conferences. But with only a handful of his opponents attending the conferences, and with security forces striking out at demonstrators around the country, some of his opponents say that Mr. Maduro’s kinder face is likely intended only to deflect international criticism, which has come most strongly from the United States. They say his police tactics aim to provoke the demonstrators.
But his supporters say he is trying to restore order.
On Wednesday, events followed a now-familiar trajectory. After police officers and soldiers blocked what had been a peaceful march of thousands of students and other protesters before they could reach the center of Caracas, angry demonstrators began throwing rocks. The police responded with tear gas, and an ugly melee ensued.
“We wanted to have a peaceful march, but the government wants us to look like the bad guys,” said Antonio José Pérez, 39, the manager of an electrical goods store, who had joined the student-led march. As many others had, he stayed on to watch the confrontation, retreating occasionally when the sting of tear gas became too strong.
But he did not condemn the protesters’ violent reaction. “What can we do?” he said. “They have guns. We have rocks and the flag.”