Tue, Apr 22, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Venezuelan protesters battle police

‘BURNING JUDAS’:Across the nation on Easter Sunday, protesters burned effigies of senior officials and hung likenesses of the Venezuelan president from lampposts

Reuters, CARACAS

Anti-government protesters jump and step on a banner of Banco de Venezuela after bringing down the banner during riots in Caracas on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Masked youths battled police, protesters burned and hung from lamp-posts effigies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and marchers demanded the “resurrection” of democracy on a volatile Easter Sunday in Venezuela.

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 walk and a Via Crucis march in the style of Jesus’ tortured walk toward crucifixion earlier in the week, hundreds of demonstrators began on Sunday with a rally denominated “Resurrection of Democracy.”

Easter marks the day Christians believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead after being crucified.

“We’re staying in the street until we get our country back,” student leader Djamil Jassir, 22, said in a square where protesters displayed dozens of used gas canisters and bullets as symbols of repression.

“This is the time to stand firm,” Jassir added.

Later, several hundred hooded protesters, many wearing Guy Fawkes masks, set up barricades in the eastern Chacao District of Caracas that has been a near-daily battleground during recent unrest in Venezuela since the middle of February.

Chanting: “Liberty,” the youths threw petrol bombs, fired stones from slings, tore down advertising hoardings and placed wires across streets blocked by debris.

Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, as residents banged pots and pans from windows in a form of protest.

Some neighbors threw bottles of water and bags of ice down to the students from balconies.

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.

Activists said a student was shot dead on Thursday night in Valencia City while raising cash for the Easter Sunday 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 Venezuelan 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 fatality of the unrest.

Around Venezuela on Sunday, opposition supporters burned puppets of Maduro, the government’s powerful No. 2, Diosdado Cabello, and other senior officials.

Effigies of a red-clad Maduro hung from several lampposts in Caracas.

“They’re taking us to the brink, they’re killing us,” one student, who asked not to be named, said before pouring kerosene over puppets of Maduro and Cabello tied to a railing in Caracas.

Government supporters, meanwhile, did the same to 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,” the supporter added.

In Petare, the biggest shanty-town in Caracas, residents burned effigies of opposition leader Henrique Capriles and Caracas Mayor Carlos Ocariz, accusing them of failing to rein in opposition supporters to prevent deaths and damage.

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