Clashes erupt on anniversary of Venezuela protests
Venezuelan police fired tear gas Thursday to break up students demonstrating against President Nicolas Maduro`s government, on the anniversary of protests that eventually left 43 people dead last year.
Clashes broke out as the students in the western city of San Cristobal, the cradle of the protests that shook the country from February to June 2014, tried to march to the local offices of the national human rights ombudsman.
The authorities said one person was hit in the head by a stone and wounded during the fray, before police fired tear gas to disperse the rally.
Venezuelan media said several more people had been hurt and reported several arrests.
Protests were also held in the capital Caracas and other cities to mark the anniversary of last year`s demonstrations, which began over violent crime but ballooned into a massive show of discontent with widespread shortages, rampant inflation and the socialist government`s handling of the ailing economy.
In Caracas, about 200 students tried to march toward a church Thursday but were forced back by riot police and gathered on the campus of Venezuelan Central University instead.
Another 100 students chanting anti-Maduro slogans marched beneath an afternoon rain on the capital`s east side, an opposition bastion, carrying posters with images of the victims of last year`s protests.
The government ordered the closure of five subway stations along the planned march routes.
Pro-government demonstrators meanwhile marched in central Caracas to mark Venezuelan Youth Day, where Maduro was initially due to give an address that was later cancelled because of the rain.
Last year, thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators flooded the streets of cities across Venezuela on and off for months in a major crisis for Maduro, the successor to late leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez.
Protest leader Leopoldo Lopez was jailed on charges of inciting the violence that ultimately claimed 43 lives and left hundreds wounded.
Next Wednesday will mark one year since his imprisonment.
In all, 1,500 people were jailed or placed under "preventive detention."
As of mid-January, 51 were still being held, according to the government rights ombudsman.