Venezuelan protesters in violent clashes with Government troops
Venezuela burns as anti-government protests continue in Caracas
Venezuelan troops stormed a square in the capital Caracas on Sunday to evict protesters who have turned it into a stronghold during demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro. National Guard soldiers fired tear gas and turned water cannons on hundreds of demonstrators, who retaliated with rocks and petrol bombs before abandoning Plaza Altamira. Over the past six weeks, militant opposition leaders and students have been urging Venezuelans onto the streets to protest issues ranging from crime and food shortages to the presence of Cuban advisers in the country’s army and other state institutions.
THIS is not Ukraine, it’s Venezuela. While the world has been focused on a missing plane, violent clashes have set the country’s capital on fire.
Student protesters have clashed with soldiers in the streets of Caracas again today, as three more fatal shootings raised the death toll to 25 as a month of demonstrations against Venezuela’s socialist government intensifies.
Around 3000 supporters and opponents of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro took to the streets of the country’s capital to mark one month since the protests erupted.
Students threw stones and petrol bombs while security forces fired teargas and turned water cannons on them.
There were similar opposition protests in the cities of San Cristobal, Merida and Valencia.
The demonstrations have been fuelled by public discontent over deteriorating living conditions in the oil-rich South American country, where violent crime, shortages and inflation have combined to create the most serious challenge yet for leftist President Nicolas Maduro.
Local student Jesus Acosta, 20, was shot in the head near his home while civilian Guillermo Sanchez, 42, died of a bullet wound after he was also shot outside his home.
Bolivarian National Guard Captain Ramso Ernesto Bracho Bravo died in clashes in the nearby city of Naguanagua.
Local media said Acosta, 20, reported that he was not participating in protests at the time.
Since the protests began, opposition leaders and students, as well as government authorities, have accused each other of backing radical groups that attack demonstrations with firearms.
PROTESTERS ‘LOOKING FOR TROUBLE’
The Caracas march had not been approved by authorities, with Maduro saying the demonstrators were simply looking for trouble. The president announced this week he was banning any protests in the centre of the capital as long as the opposition refuses to hold talks with the government.
But the students turned out anyway, chanting slogans and demanding the release of protesters detained in earlier demonstrations.
The students, standing just outside the gates of the Central University of Venezuela, squared off against about 300 national police officers who blocked their access to the landmark Plaza Espana square.
Their march crossed the campus, and was trying to head all the way to the government ombudsman’s offices.
Hilda Ruiz, a student leader from Central University, told AFP the marchers also wanted authorities to respond to allegations of police torture, and to punish those responsible for the deaths of demonstrators.
When police lobbed tear gas, marchers largely scattered from the gas cloud.
Some threw rocks in retaliation.
Maduro supporters, dressed in “Chavista” red, meanwhile, rallied for “peace and life.”
CRISIS MEETINGS UNDERWAY
South American foreign ministers are meeting in Santiago, Chile on the Venezuelan crisis.
“I want to reiterate the Chilean government’s wish to support and stand by the Venezuelan people and the government,” the country’s newly inaugurated President Michelle Bachelet said, stressing that the government was democratically elected.
Wishing Venezuelans “peace” in which to settle their differences, Bachelet added: “We will never support any movement that violently seeks to oust a constitutionally elected government.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VENEZUELA PROTESTS:
*The anti-government protests first erupted on February 4 in the western city of San Cristobal, reaching Caracas on February 12 when three people were killed.
*Demonstrators are demanding better security, an end to goods shortages and protected freedom of speech.
*Major social and economic problems have fuelled the protests. But officials have accused the US of plotting to destabilise the government.
*Some blame Venezuela’s government, led by President Nicolas Maduro, and other officials blame the opposition for the security and economic problems.
*Many demonstrators across the country are students, but prominent opposition politicians have also joined marches.
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