December 22, 2014
Venezuela unrest death toll rises, students fight troops again
Thousands of supporters and foes of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro were on the capital's streets for rival rallies marking a month since the first bloodshed of the recent unrest around the South American OPEC nation.
Trouble began when National Guard troops blocked opposition marchers trying to break out of Plaza Venezuela to reach the state ombudsman's office.
Students threw stones and petrol bombs while security forces fired tear gas and turned water cannons on them.
Reuters witnesses saw dozens of people leaving injured.
Elsewhere, in central Carabobo state, a student, a middle-aged man and an army captain were shot dead in the latest fatalities from now-daily clashes around the South American nation of 29 million people.
Opposition activists blamed armed government supporters for shooting the student near his home in Valencia city, but the state governor said the shot came from snipers among protesters.
A 42-year-old man died during the same disturbances, shot while painting his house, the local mayor said. In the third killing, an army captain died from a gunshot during a clash with "terrorist criminals", government officials said.
The government of Maduro, a 51-year-old former bus driver who won election last year to succeed the late Hugo Chavez, has declared victory over an attempted 'coup' against him and seems in little danger of being toppled by a 'Venezuelan Spring'.
But student radicals are vowing to keep the protests going, meaning protracted instability could bring more bloodshed and act as a further drag on Venezuela's already troubled economy.
"The opposition are causing all the violence. They should think a bit smarter. The street barricades make no sense, they just bring violence," said government supporter Marcos Alacayo, 46, among hundreds of 'Chavistas' at a square in east Caracas.
"They're trying to make out the nation is in a bad state, but that just isn't true. More people have access to healthcare, education and good food than ever. That's what they don't understand. Before Chavez, no one had what we have now," added Alacayo, who works for a state-run higher education program.
"Today we're marching to denounce the repression. There can't be impunity. Why do they attack us when we are demonstrating freely? The security forces are bowing to a political ideology when their duty is to protect the people," said law student Agnly Veliz, 22, at the opposition rally.
Veliz said she was at the fateful February 12 rally and has been protesting every day since then. "What's the point of graduating while the country is in chaos? If I lose the year but help to achieve a better Venezuela, then it's worth it."