March 7, 2014 in Nation/World

Venezuelan president moves to quell protests

Two mayors arrested; two people killed in riots
Mery Mogollon And Chris Kraul Los Angeles Times
Associated Press photo

A demonstrator runs to throw a Molotov bomb against national police during clashes Thursday in Caracas, Venezuela.
(Full-size photo)

Venezuelan unrest

 Venezuelans fed up with food shortages and unchecked violence have been staging nearly daily street protests since mid-February. At least 21 people have been killed in related violence, by government count, in the country’s worst unrest in years.

CARACAS, Venezuela – In signs of a crackdown on protests that have paralyzed parts of Venezuela for three weeks, President Nicolas Maduro’s government said Thursday that two mayors faced charges of neglecting their duties, and it issued an arrest warrant for a university rector.

The government actions came as two more people were killed in violence related to protests against the Maduro administration over crime, food shortages, a weak economy and human rights. The dead were identified as a member of the National Guard and a member of the pro-government militant groups known as colectivos.

The two died during a clash in the Los Ruices barrio when government supporters tried to remove a barricade erected by protesters. The member of the militant groups was identified as Jose Gregorio Amaris Castillo, 25. The National Guard member’s name was not immediately released.

The clashes followed a tense two-hour standoff between residents of apartment buildings and the armed colectivos. Residents threw bottles at the militants to keep them from clearing the debris that blocked streets. As of Thursday afternoon, disturbances were still being reported in the area.

Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly, said the two victims were killed by a rooftop sniper and that those responsible would be brought to justice.

Opposition mayors Gerardo Blyde and David Smolansky of the Caracas boroughs Baruta and El Hatillo are facing charges of “failing to fulfill their duties” of maintaining public order, government officials said. The mayors are accused of not clearing barricades that impeded traffic in their neighborhoods, thereby violating laws that guarantee free transit.

Authorities also searched the office and home of Pablo Aure, rector of the University of Carabobo, according to Globovision TV. Aure confirmed to news media that he was facing arrest on charges of inciting violence that occurred during student protests in Valencia. Eleven students have been arrested in Valencia in recent weeks. Meanwhile, 19 were reported arrested in Valencia in protests Wednesday.

On Wednesday, armed motorcycle-riding vigilantes set fire to the mayor’s office in Merida, a university town in southwestern Venezuela that has seen intense protests against the government.

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