CARACAS, Venezuela — At least 17 protesters were injured yesterday in Venezuela’s capital as opposition student groups marched for the fourth day.
Tear gas and pellets shot by national police around the Plaza Altamira in Caracas after student protesters blocked access to a highway left 17 people injured and more with breathing difficulties, Ramon Muchacho, mayor of Chacao municipality, said in a post on his Twitter account.
“Protesters have informed us that they plan to come to Altamira every day,” Muchacho said yesterday, adding that no one had been injured by gunfire. “Take precautions.”
President Nicolas Maduro, who said he would not permit highways to be blocked, said yesterday at a pro-government march in Caracas that he has no plans to step down. Since taking office in April, Maduro has struggled to boost growth and rein in the world’s fastest inflation in a country with the world’s biggest oil reserves.
Maduro banned street demonstrations, threatened media and ordered the arrest of opposition politicians after three people died Feb. 12 in clashes between protesters and government supporters. He has accused opposition factions of trying to incite a coup.
“I’m not going to step down,” Maduro said yesterday. “No one will remove me from the path of building the Bolivarian revolution.”
Maduro said he ordered the closing of three metro stations and suspended bus service in the eastern part of Caracas where students have been protesting.
Venezuela is searching for Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the Voluntad Popular opposition political party who Maduro accused of inciting protests, National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello said yesterday on state television.
“Leopoldo is hiding,” Cabello said. “There’s an arrest order for that fascist, and we’re going to work to put him in jail.”
Lopez, in a post on his Twitter account yesterday, said he was in Venezuela and that he would announce actions in the “coming hours.”
The public prosecutor said yesterday in an e-mailed statement that 13 of 99 people who were detained over violent events Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 will remain in prison after judges ruled that their actions were “severe.” Student protesters are demanding the release of all those detained.
Maduro has accused international news outlets of bias. He took Colombian station NTN24 off the air in Venezuela for covering the protests and in a national address Feb. 13 criticized Agence France-Presse for “manipulating information.”
Inflation more than doubled in Venezuela in the past year to 56.3 percent in January, according to the central bank. At the same time, the central bank’s scarcity index rose to a record 28 percent, meaning that more than one in four basic goods was out of stock at any given time.
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