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Tuesday 20 February 2018

Students clash with security forces

A demonstrator at a burning barricade during student protests in Caracas (AP)
A demonstrator at a burning barricade during student protests in Caracas (AP)

Venezuelan security forces backed by water cannons and tear gas have driven off student protesters from Caracas' main road in the third night of anti-government demonstrations.

About 500 protesters halted traffic for several hours to demand justice for two students who were killed on Wednesday during clashes with police and armed pro-government militias.

When police later broke up the crowd, the students regrouped to a nearby plaza, where they burned rubbish and stoned police.

President Nicolas Maduro criticised the students in a televised address and said he would no longer tolerate any more disruption on the nation's roads.

There were no reports of serious injuries.

The violence followed the burial of the two students earlier in the day, as well as a third victim, a pro-government militia member, who were killed in Wednesday's unrest. At the same time authorities began releasing the dozens of demonstrators arrested in recent days.

In what has become a family tradition during 15 years of socialist rule, Derrik Redman said he and his son Robert attended a peaceful protest of more than 10,000 anti-government demonstrators. But this time Robert did not return and later in the evening his father received a phone call saying he had been shot dead in a stand-off with police.

"As long as the protests continue I'll still go," Mr Redman said while shaking his head in disbelief.

On the other side of town, in the 23rd of January slum that has long been a government stronghold and where the late leader Hugo Chavez is buried, about 100 people, many with their faces covered and waving pistols, paid their final respects to Juan "Juancho" Montoya.

Mr Montoya was killed when the pro-government vigilante group he led roared up on motorcycles to the federal prosecutor's office where students were sparring with police. In a confusing incident, shots were fired into the crowd and Mr Montoya and a student, Bassil D'Acosta, were killed.

As a black hearse covered in flowers wound its way through the slum's dusty streets, an escort of more than 100 motorcycles honked their horns incessantly to shouts of "Juancho lives, the battle continues".


Press Association

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