March 3, 2014 in Nation/World

Venezuelan protesters keep up marches, pressure

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A demonstrator attends a protest with her mouth covered by tape and face painted in the colors of the Venezuelan flag in Caracas, Venezuela, on Sunday.
(Full-size photo)

CARACAS, Venezuela – Thousands of anti-government activists marched peacefully Sunday to an upper-class Caracas district shaken by more than two weeks of unrest, trying to maintain the movement’s momentum during a long holiday break.

Afterward, several hundred protesters erected barricades, burned tires, and threw rocks and fireworks at National Guard troops, who responded with tear gas in what has become a nearly nightly ritual of clashes since mid-February. Two people were wounded by shotguns, the district’s mayor, Ramon Muchacho, tweeted.

President Nicolas Maduro had sought to dampen protesters’ spirits by declaring a seven-day holiday weekend coinciding with Carnival and historical commemorations and by promoting the Sunday sale of subsidized food at government-run markets.

“Happiness will conquer the embittered,” Maduro said in a TV appearance at a recreation center. “The Venezuelan people have won because happiness and peace have conquered.”

Whether they headed for balmy beaches or joined the barricades in anti-government protests, many people are fed up with crippling inflation, shortages of food and medicine, unchecked violent crime and government mismanagement of the economy in a nation with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

Hundreds queued up at one central Caracas market, an increasingly common sight across the country, where coffee, flour, cooking oil, toilet paper and other staples have been in short supply for a year. Longer lines have been seen at such markets in the provinces.

The unrest is Venezuela’s worst since President Hugo Chavez died of cancer a year ago and the opposition came within a hair of winning the presidency in April’s election, but it remains to be seen if it will spread to include the lower classes who benefited from Chavez’s generous social welfare programs.

Most of the marchers on Sunday, whether students or their gray-haired elders clad in white shirts and wearing hats with the Venezuelan flag’s colors, hailed from the upper classes.

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