Police disperse another rally in Venezuela
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Last Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014, 15:08
  
Caracas: Venezuelan police have fired tear gas and buckshot to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters, and the death toll from two weeks of unrest rose to four.

As US President Barack Obama urged the government to release detainees, hospital officials said a 21-year-old former beauty queen in the northern city of Valencia who was shot in the head Tuesday died of her wounds.

Unrest stemming from anti-government fervour was reported in several cities in the oil-rich but economically troubled nation.

In a rich neighbourhood in the east of Caracas, police used tear gas and buckshot to disperse protesters who had blocked a road by burning garbage and debris yesterday. Several injuries were reported. The demo was in support of a prominent young opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, who turned himself in to the authorities on Tuesday after days of eluding police seeking to execute an arrest warrant. He was making a court appearance late yesterday but no details had emerged. He is charged with instigating street demo violence last week that left three people dead.

Obama, speaking during a visit to Mexico for a trade summit, urged Venezuela to release detained protesters and address the "legitimate grievances" of its people.

Demonstrators - students and opposition parties - are angry over rampant street crime, runaway inflation, corruption and bleak job prospects in the country with the world's largest proven oil reserves. Their main target is President Nicolas Maduro, who succeeded the late Hugo Chavez last year. "Along with the Organisation of American States, we call on the Venezuelan government to release protesters it has detained and engage in real dialogue," Obama told reporters after a North American leaders summit in the Mexican city of Toluca.

Venezuela's relations with Washington, long strained under stalwart leftist Chavez, have remained sour and distrustful under Maduro, who has stuck closely to his predecessor's policies. About 100 supporters of jailed opposition leader Lopez rallied yesterday outside a Caracas court where he had been due to hear charges blaming him for a deadly episode of violence.

Heavy security surrounded the Palace of Justice, blocking streets leading to the building, where the Harvard-educated economist had been scheduled to appear after spending the night in jail.

But his party said in a Twitter message that the hearing had been moved to a military jail. Lopez's defence attorney Juan Carlos Gutierrez said a court illegally ordered the change claiming it would protect Lopez's life.

AFP

First Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014, 15:08


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