Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Venezuelan students get ready for more protests

AFP, CARACAS

Angry Venezuelan students geared up to stage a fresh rally yesterday, the latest in three weeks of anti-government protests that have left at least 14 people dead.

The leftist government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, which has clashed with the US for years, said meanwhile it would name an ambassador to Washington yesterday.

The two countries have been without mutual envoys since 2010.

This olive branch came even though Venezuela last week announced the expulsion of three US diplomats on grounds they were conspiring with student protesters.

Maduro said he wanted to enhance dialogue with Washington because he said Americans did not understand what is happening with the violence in his oil-rich country.

He has likened it to an attempted coup.

On Monday, protesters erected barricades in major cities in some of the worst demonstrations against the government since the protests began.

Tires were burned in cities from the Andes to the plains to Caracas near the Caribbean, adding to the pressure on Maduro’s administration.

Police firing tear gas dispersed about 50 demonstrators in Caracas late on Monday.

They had been blocking streets with barricades in the posh district of Chacao.

In the latest reported death, a student who was on a rooftop terrace fell backward to his death on the street as police were breaking up the crowd.

With 45 people still under arrest after marches largely inspired by the country’s dire shortages of basic goods and longstanding problems with inflation, the potential for escalation remained visible.

In a rare public split within Maduro’s ranks, a ruling party governor called for the release of all jailed protesters, an intervention that came ahead of a meeting of his counterparts, called by the president.

Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora, the governor of the western state of Tachira where the student-led protests began, also criticized the government’s use of the military, calling the response “a grave error” and “unacceptable excess.”

Maduro insists the protests are a US-inspired coup d’etat to assail his democratic rule, less than a year since he was narrowly elected successor to former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, whose policies he has continued.

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