Nearly 3,000 arrested in two months of Venezuela's anti-Maduro protests: NGO

Caracas, Capital District, VenezuelaUpdated: May 30, 2017, 10:37 PM IST
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An opposition activist clashes with riot police during a demonstration against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas on May 30. Photograph:(AFP)

Venezuelan police have arrested nearly 3,000 people in the two months since a wave of anti-government protests erupted, a judicial campaign group said on Tuesday.

President Nicolas Maduro's opponents accuse him of repressing protesters who are calling for elections to remove him from office. He accuses them of plotting a coup against him.

Foro Penal (the Criminal Justice Forum) has counted 2,977 people arrested during the deadly unrest, of whom 1,351 are still in detention, director Alfredo Romero told a news conference.

Of those, 197 have been jailed after being sentenced by military courts, said a lawyer working for the group, Alonso Medina.

"This is a situation that occurs under dictatorial regimes," Medina said.

Prosecutors say 60 people have been killed in violence linked to the protests since they broke out on April 1, many of them shot dead.

Riot police have fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets. Protesters have hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks.

That was the picture Tuesday as well when about 2,000 demonstrators took to the streets against Maduro. Police used tear gas and flash-bang explosives to break up crowds. 

The crowd was unable to move out of the east end of Caracas. Most fled from the gas, but a few holdouts who were wearing helmets kept clashing with authorities on motorcycles who were hit with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

"People are not getting tired of protesting; they are getting more and more tired of this government, and of going hungry," Arturo, a university student of 26, told AFP.

Venezuela's government and opposition accuse each other of sending armed groups to sow violence in the demonstrations.

The opposition blames Maduro for an economic crisis that has caused shortages of food and basic supplies, while the socialist president says the crisis is a US-backed conspiracy.