December 22, 2014
Venezuelan protesters burn Maduro effigies in Easter rally
Hundreds of protesters rallied to demand the "resurrection" of Venezuelan democracy while effigies of both President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leaders were paraded for burning in a local Easter Day tradition.
Though millions of Venezuelans have headed for Caribbean beaches and family gatherings over the Easter period, student demonstrators have sought to keep a nearly three-month protest movement going with religious-themed demonstrations.
After a barefoot rally and a "Via Crucis" march in the style of Jesus' tortured walk towards crucifixion, the students gathered in a Caracas square for a demonstration denominated "Resurrection of Democracy."
"We're staying in the street until we get our country back, until we get democracy back," student leader Djamil Jassir, 22, told Reuters in a square where protesters displayed dozens of used gas cannisters and bullets as symbols of repression.
"This is the time to stand firm."
Anti-Maduro protests since early February have led to violence killing at least 41 people, according to official figures. The dead have been from both sides of the South American nation's political divide and from security forces.
The unrest has been Venezuela's worst in a decade.
Even during Holy Week, a few dozen masked demonstrators with slingshots, petrol bombs and rocks have faced off most nights in east Caracas with police using batons and teargas.
Activists said a student was shot dead on Thursday night in Valencia city while collecting money for the Easter tradition of "burning Judas" - when neighbors set fire to effigies of hated figures in memory of the disciple who betrayed Jesus.
Gabriel Daza, 21, was constructing a model of a National Guard military officer, activists said via Twitter and in local media. If it is confirmed that his death was linked to the political tensions, he would be the 42nd victim of the unrest.
For Sunday, opposition backers planned to burn puppets of Maduro and senior officials in various parts of the country.
Government supporters planned to do the same with effigies of prominent opposition figures, with jailed protest leader Leopoldo Lopez proving particularly popular.
"The only Judases in Venezuela are Leopoldo Lopez, Maria Corina Machado, Antonio Ledezma," one Maduro supporter said on Twitter, referring to the three most hardline opposition leaders. "You all need holy water."