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Venezuelan govt forces target protest barricades

AP Last Updated: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 07:05

Caracas: The opposition mayor of San Cristobal said that Venezuelan government forces attacked and dismantled barricades raised by protesters at key intersections in his city and fired tear gas and plastic buckshot in residential neighbourhoods.

In another western city, Venezuela`s government reported yesterday a 47-year-old Chilean woman was shot dead while removing debris from the road beside her home, bringing the death toll from more than a month of protests to 21. The Interior Ministry said in a statement it is investigating the Sunday death of Giselle Rubilar Figueroa in the Andean city of Merida.

San Cristobal Mayor Daniel Ceballos said at least three people were injured and one arrested in actions overnight by National Guard troops in his city in the western state of Tachira, near the border with Colombia where the student-led protests first erupted.

"Here the city is pretty well paralysed," Ceballos said. "I can`t understand how by day there`s a peace conference and by night there`s gas, repression and violence."

President Nicolas Maduro last week launched a "peace conference" at the state level in San Cristobal. The gathering has gone forward, even though the opposition has refused to participate until Maduro releases jailed protesters and takes other steps.

It`s a follow-up to televised national-level meetings in the capital at which some government critics have been invited to raise complaints, though it is unclear if the discussions will lead to changes.

The weeks of protests that have roiled Venezuela began in San Cristobal when students angry about the attempted sexual assault of a classmate began taking to the streets. The protests soon spread to other cities and attracted mostly members of the middle class tired of the country`s soaring inflation, shortages of basic goods and one of the highest murder rates in the world.

In San Cristobal, Caracas and other cities, opposition demonstrators have erected barricades of debris and garbage to block streets and snarl traffic. In some cases, demonstrators say they are trying to protect their neighbourhoods from government-supporting thugs.

First Published: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 07:05

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