Venezuela marks anniversary of protests amid clashes
Updated: 2015-02-13 16:28
A demostrator runs during a clash with security forces after a march in memory of those killed in 2014 anti-government demostrations on the occasion of the Youth Day in Chacao, Caracas, Venezuela, on Feb 12, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua]
CARACAS - Venezuelan police clashed with protesters on Thursday in the country's capital Caracas and a western city, on the anniversary of protests that eventually left 43 people dead last year.
In San Cristobal, an epicenter of the 2014 movement, the National Guard soldiers and police fired tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails when a march to the local offices of the national human rights ombudsman was blocked.
Several people from both sides had been hurt and several arrests were made, according to Venezuelan media.
In Caracas, hundreds of students tried to march toward a church but were forced back by riot police and gathered on the campus of Venezuelan Central University instead.
Some masked students blocked an avenue with burning trash and threw stones at police who also fired buckshot in a confrontation.
For supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, they gathered at a square in a much larger rival rally to show support for the president, who succeeded late leader Hugo Chavez after the latter died of cancer in 2013.
Various businesses closed for the day or shut shop early.
Also on Thursday, Maduro said his government has foiled a coup supposed to be activated to bomb the presidential palace on the day when his country marked the one-year anniversary of violent protests.
In a television broadcast, Maduro accused the U.S. government of funding a group of military officials to launch violent operations,including assassination, to destabilize the nation's democracy.
Maduro linked the coup attempt with a similar action which was also unveiled last year and added that freed military officials from that occasion participated in this plan.
Ramon Muchacho, the mayor of Chacao, one of the five districts of metropolitan Caracas, said in a radio interview that "a year on, the opposition has lost ground ... violence is not the way, it won't take us along the path we want."
Opposition leader Liliana Hernandez told Venezuela's Noticias 24 news website Thursday that the political opposition dubbed "The Exit" had a "negative outcome."
"Radicalization implies that there is going to be more violence ... and above all the use of the armed forces, which benefits the government and never the opposition," said Hernandez. "The outcome is negative, because of the deaths, the injured."
Nationwide anti-government protests, which started in February 2014, have left 43 people dead and 878 injured, as well as property loss of more than $10 billion, according to the state Venezuelan News Agency.
The wave of protests has been part of the right-wing campaign "The Exit," that calls for Maduro's ouster.