Clashes break out at Venezuelan anti-government protests

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Caracas, April 20 (IANS) Hundreds of anti-government opposition protesters in Venezuela clashed with security forces at various points around capital city Caracas on Wednesday.

The police fired tear gas to disperse them and blocked their marches, Efe news agency reported.

The huge demonstration, in which thousands of government opponents assembled and marched from 26 separate spots around the capital, was dispersed by security forces at several places in the Libertador district.

The Libertador district encompasses part of the capital metro area’s central and western zones and is the area where key government buildings are located.

The demonstrators attempted to approach the office of the Ombudsman to ask for that official’s support in the process launched by the opposition-controlled Parliament against the Supreme Court magistrates who took over some legislative duties.

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The Bolivarian National Police (PNB) used tear gas and rubber bullets along the Francisco Fajardo Highway, the capital’s main artery, to try and contain the demonstration there, as well as to disperse other concentrations of protesters in western Caracas.

Venezuelan media outlets and reporters confirmed that one young man died after being shot in the head at a protest in San Bernardino, although the details of his death are not yet known.

The Attorney General’s Office said that two other people were wounded at the protests after suffering multiple injuries and rubber bullet impacts.

Opposition leaders urged demonstrators to remain out on the streets despite the heavy police tear gas assault against them.

“Here we are out on the street fighting peacefully and repressed by the National Guard (Venezuela’s militarized police) but convinced that it’s on the street that we’ll achieve change. We have to stay out on the street,” opposition lawmaker Juan Requesens said.

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In the eastern district of Bello Monte, the PNB and National Guard managed to drive the demonstrators back, forcing hundreds of them to jump into the polluted Guaire River that flows through the city to escape the police assault.

The demonstrations come after almost three weeks of anti-government street protests that now have resulted in seven deaths — including one police officer — dozens of injured and more than 500 arrests, of which more than 200 are still in custody, according to the opposition and non-governmental organization Foro Penal Venezolano.



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