About 2,000 students took the streets of the Venezuelan capital to protest the leftist government Thursday, a day after three people were shot dead and dozens injured.
Walking a few hundred meters (yards) to the west, where a young opposition protester died Wednesday, they complained of government violence and “oppression.”
“Who are we? Students. What do we want? Freedom,” they shouted, attracting no notable police response in Altamira Plaza, a traditional meeting place for anti-government protesters in Caracas’s Chacao municipality.
A day earlier, thousands protested against rampant crime, inflation and shortages of basic goods in the biggest challenge to President Nicolas Maduro since he took over from the late Hugo Chavez last year.
The ensuing unrest prompted Maduro to warn of a coup attempt, and vow he would not be overthrown.
His government had urged people to demonstrate in “anti-fascism” rallies, but only a handful of supporters turned up.
– ‘Not a coup’ –
Top opposition figure Henrique Capriles insisted a coup was out of the question.
“Expressing yourself is not a coup d’etat,” said Capriles, who ran against Maduro in last year’s elections. “A civilian doesn’t commit a coup.
“We will channel discontent, but I will not lie to you, the conditions are not right for the departure of the government,” he told reporters in condemning the clashes between anti- and pro-government protesters.
Human Rights Watch urged Venezuelan authorities to “promptly and impartially” investigate the protest violence.
“What Venezuela urgently needs is for these killings to be investigated and the killers brought to justice, no matter their political affiliation,” said the group’s Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco.