says street protests have caused $10 billion in damage
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[March 22, 2014]
CARACAS (Reuters) — Venezuela's
president said on Friday that street protests for the past month have
caused at least $10 billion in damage, accusing hardline foes of
carrying out terrorist acts to sabotage public assets.
President Nicolas Maduro did not say how the government arrived at
that figure from the clashes between demonstrators barricading
roads, pro-government radicals and security forces that have killed
at least 31 people.
"The minority who want a coup have done so much damage to the
country ... they burnt a public university where hundreds of young
people studied," he said in a nationally televised speech.
"This isn't protest. It's vandalism. It's terrorism."
Maduro was referring to a military college affiliated with the
Venezuelan armed forces that authorities say was torched by
demonstrators in the western city of San Cristobal, near the border
San Cristobal has been harder hit by the violence than anywhere else
since the protests began early last month. On Wednesday,
intelligence agents arrested the city's opposition mayor and accused
him of "civil rebellion."
The Supreme Court has ordered the mayors of several opposition-run
municipalities to dismantle street barricades set up by protesters
that have become flashpoints for clashes.
One opposition mayor from central Carabobo state was jailed for 10
months for failing to comply with a similar order.
The protesters say they want political change and an end to high
inflation, shortages of basic foods such as milk and flour, and one
of the highest rates of violent crime in the world.
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Supporters of both camps plan to march in the capital Caracas on
Saturday in the latest of daily rallies around the polarized
The protesters are demanding Maduro resign, while he says "fascists"
want a coup like the one 12 years ago that briefly ousted his
predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.
(Reporting by Daniel Wallis and Deisy Buitrago;
editing by Lisa
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