Clashes flare after Venezuela student camps raided, one dead

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan troops on Thursday

rounded up hundreds of youth activists and

dismantled camps set up to protest against

President Nicolas Maduro, and a policeman was

shot dead in the demonstrations and clashes that

ensued around Caracas.

Pre-dawn raids by National Guard troops broke up

four tent camps maintained by student activists in

the capital of the OPEC member nation during

three months of protests.

After the raids, hundreds of demonstrators and

residents poured onto the streets, setting up

barricades, a common tactic during three months

of unrest. The protests had waned in recent weeks

even as sporadic clashes continued.

Masked youths hurled stones and petrol bombs,

while police fired tear gas in upmarket east


One policeman died of bullet wounds, among five

people injured, authorities said. Witnesses said

shots were fired from buildings down into the


"A sniper killed the policeman while he was

cleaning debris left by these violent, murderous

protesters," a somber Maduro said during an

address to the nation. "He was vilely killed."

Troops cleared away the remnants of the camps,

where students from all over the country had lived

in tents, chanting and strumming guitars beneath

banners with anti-government slogans, such as

"Maduro, assassin."

"These arrests are irresponsible because this is a

peaceful protest and we are not trying to topple

the government," said Jose Manuel Perez, 22, a

student leader. "Mr. President, think about what

you're doing. We demand respect for the


The government said soldiers arrested 243 people

in camps it said were bases for staging violent

protests. Officials displayed items taken including

mortars and Molotov cocktails.

The detainees included a pregnant woman and

"apparently" one foreigner, officials said.


The near-daily protests of February and March,

which saw clouds of tear gas and barricades of

burning trash and tires, had waned as opposition

sympathizers grew less hopeful that Maduro would

be pushed from office.

Official figures show 42 have been killed and

nearly 800 injured. About 3,000 people have been

arrested since February, with Thursday's round-up

leaving about 450 people still in detention.

Francia Cacique, 24, a leader of one of the camps,

called the raid illegal and denied the students had

been plotting subversive activities.

"They've come up with the excuse of drugs and

weapons, which is totally false," Cacique told

Reuters via cellphone instant message, saying the

detained protesters were being held at a Caracas

military base. She was not arrested.

"I call on the world to help us and to realize that

this is a dictatorship!"

Opposition demonstrators took to the streets in

February to demand Maduro's resignation,

complaining of soaring prices, chronic product

shortages and abuse by security forces.

Maduro has called the protests an effort to

overthrow him through public order disruptions

that have snarled traffic, preventing some people

from obtaining medical treatment.

The 51-year-old president, who replaced his late

mentor Hugo Chavez last year, appears secure in

power since the protests have not gone far beyond

middle-class opposition strongholds and armed

forces heads appear to remain firmly behind him.

But he has seen his approval rating fall to its

lowest level yet, 37 percent according to local

pollster Datanalis. He also faces a tricky job to

turn around Venezuela's ailing economy.

Kofi Oppong Kyekyeku

I am a Ghanaian Broadcast Journalist/Writer who has an interest in General News, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Lifestyle and many more.

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