December 22, 2014
Venezuelan students fight police
Venezuelan police fired teargas and turned water cannons on stone-throwing protesters to stop them blocking a Caracas highway in a fourth day of sporadic unrest against President Nicolas Maduro's government.
The latest trouble flared as night fell, after thousands of Maduro supporters had earlier flooded the center of the capital to call for peace and make a show of political strength after this week's deadly violence during street protests.
Three people were shot dead on Wednesday in the worst violence since Maduro's disputed election last year.
The 51-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez has faced two weeks of mainly small protests led by students and hardline opposition leaders complaining about Venezuela's rampant crime, shortages of basic products, and alleged repression of political rivals.
"We'll be here day-after-day, night-after-night, until something changes," vowed Javier Sanchez, 20, picking up stones to hurl at police while other students shouted at him "Stop! No violence!" in the upscale Altamira district of Caracas.
After about 2,000 students had gathered peacefully in Altamira Square, debating strategy and chanting slogans in the afternoon sun, a few hundred set off to try and block a major highway. Police halted them before they could get there.
In a repeat of daily confrontations this week, the students threw objects and taunted the police, who responded with volleys of teargas and a water cannon truck, or "whale" as Venezuelans call it.
"People are asleep. It's time for action," said student Michael Paredes, 26, carrying vinegar and putting on a bandana to protect against teargas.
Staking his presidency on maintaining his mentor's socialist legacy, Maduro accuses his rivals of trying to create conditions for a coup like the one 12 years ago that briefly ousted Chavez.