Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has vowed to tighten security in cities across the country after protests against his government turned deadly, killing three people and injuring 26 others.
“There will be no coup d’etat in Venezuela; you can rest assured. Democracy will continue, and the revolution will continue,” Maduro said on national television on Wednesday.
“I have given clear instructions to state security agencies to secure the country’s main cities. Anyone who goes out to try to carry out violence will be arrested.”
At least 30 people were arrested as rival protests linked to his country’s deepening economic crisis exploded into violence.
A pro-government demonstrator and two student protesters were killed as rallies both for and against Venezuela’s government escalated.
Unidentified assailants earlier fired into a rally outside the attorney general’s office in Caracas.
The OPEC member nation – with an institutionally socialist government dependent on oil revenues in a state-led system – sits atop the world’s largest proven reserves of crude.
Yet its economy has been battered by inflation of more than 50 per cent a year.
Venezuela has had economic problems go from bad to worse amid shortages of hard currency, while dwindling supplies of consumer goods have frustrated some government supporters.
The government blames “bourgeois” local business interests for trying to profit from its largely low- and middle-income political base. It has engaged in privatisations and unpopular currency controls.
National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello denounced “the killing of a fighting member of the Bolivarian Revolution in the Plaza La Candelaria” some 200 metres from where the opposition supporters were rallying.
“This is a provocation from the right,” Cabello charged, calling for “calm and sanity.”
Authorities took several actions against reporters and media.
Journalists union chief Marco Ruiz said that a photographer and a reporter were arrested while covering the protests, and that they were taken to different military detention facilities.
And Colombian news channel NTN24, which had been covering the protests in depth, was abruptly pulled off the air.
Outside AFP’s office in Caracas, riot police used tear gas to break up about 100 student protesters.
Then equipment used to film the news, including one video camera belonging to AFP, was stolen as authorities looked on.
Thousands of students, accompanied by several opposition politicians, had converged in downtown Caracas to denounce the economic policies of Maduro, who succeeded the late Hugo Chavez as president last year.
A day earlier, five youths were shot when more motorcycle-riding gunmen opened fire on protests in the Andean city of Merida, local media and student groups have said. Another 10 students participating in the protests were arrested.