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Venezuelans step up pressure on Maduro with 12-hour strike

A woman wears Venezuelan flag motif glasses during a protest demanding a recall referendum against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. Venezuela is bracing for turbulence after the government blocked a presidential recall referendum in a move opposition leaders are calling a coup. The march was led by the wives of jailed activists. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A woman wears Venezuelan flag motif glasses during a protest demanding a recall referendum against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. Venezuela is bracing for turbulence after the government blocked a presidential recall referendum in a move opposition leaders are calling a coup. The march was led by the wives of jailed activists. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)  (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Stores and schools are closed and rush-hour traffic is noticeably lighter as many residents in Venezuela's capital have stayed home to express their opposition to President Nicolás Maduro.

The 12-hour work stoppage comes as the opposition steps up its campaign to force the embattled socialist from office after authorities canceled a recall referendum seeking his removal.

Senior officials have threatened to expropriate businesses that close. But major employers have insisted Friday's work stoppage is a grassroots protest and not a lockout aimed at sabotaging the already crippled economy.

The stoppage recalls opposition tactics used in 2002 ahead of a coup against then-President Hugo Chávez.

But while Chávez is still revered, his successor is widely unpopular. Polls show three out of four Venezuelans want Maduro out of office this year.

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