Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela detains dozens of anti-government protesters

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Media captionDemonstrators were demanding the release of other protesters detained in recent days

Police in Venezuela have detained at least 80 demonstrators who were demanding the release of those arrested in recent anti-government protests.

Hundreds of people, mostly students, had marched peacefully through the streets of the capital Caracas.

But security forces later clashed with a group of demonstrators who threw stones and home-made explosives, and tried to erect barricades.

More than 40 people have been killed during three months of unrest.

Wednesday's march was called by university students to demand the release of more than 200 people who were detained after security forces broke up protest camps last week.

The government said the camps were being used as bases to launch "violent attacks" and to hide "drugs, weapons, explosives and mortars".

'No proof'

But a university student at the march, Alex Gomez, rejected the accusations, saying "there was never a problem due to drugs, weapons, or alcohol".

"We are demanding that they show us the reasons why they arrested them," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Dozens of demonstrators were detained in the latest clashes in Caracas
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Protesters were loaded onto trucks and taken away by police
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption They were demanding the release of other protesters detained in recent days

A student leader, Juan Requesens, vowed they would continue demonstrating despite the arrests.

"The government is trying to suppress us by continuing to detain students. We will not bow down and will continue our protests," he told the Efe news agency.

Since 12 February, Venezuela has seen a wave of violent demonstrations that were triggered by discontent over high inflation, rampant crime and food shortages.

The government has labelled the protesters "fascist agitators" and accused them of fomenting a coup against the left-wing President Nicolas Maduro.

In a report published last week, the pressure group Human Rights Watch accused Venezuelan security forces of illegally detaining and abusing protesters.

The latest clashes come a day after the Venezuelan opposition threatened to boycott ongoing talks with the government.

The two sides began meeting last month in an attempt to find a way out of the crisis.