CARACAS: Tens of thousands of Venezuelans skipped the traditional Carnival holiday that is a yearly highlight for many to instead march in nationwide protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
The demonstrations, part of a wave of nearly month-old protests that have left 18 people dead and more than 260 injured, were called in outrage at insecurity, government repression and shortages of basic goods.
“This is the people’s struggle against the inefficient government. Maduro, you have lost today the streets of Venezuela because the streets belong to the people,” Central University of Venezuela student leader Juan Requesens told nearly 20,000 people gathered in Caracas.
The students called for a “genuine dialogue” with the president and for discussion on ending the standoff marred by violence.
Several hours later, a group of radical protesters armed with sticks and stones gathered in the capital’s Plaza Altamira and faced off with members of the National Guard who responded with water cannons, tear gas and birdshot.
Officials said the clash left 17 wounded from birdshot or suffering from gas inhalation.
On Sunday, authorities also released dozens of protesters and an Italian photographer, but that did nothing to appease the demonstrators.
Four marches converged in the afternoon at Plaza Brion in the wealthy Chacao district, with many protesters clad in white as they blew horns and whistles, and carrying Venezuelan flags.