Venezuela sends troops to unrest-hit west - minister

2017-05-17 19:58
Venezuelan opposition activists protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, on May 15, 2017. (AFP)

Venezuelan opposition activists protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, on May 15, 2017. (AFP)

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Caracas - Venezuela's government said on Wednesday it was sending troops to a western region rocked by looting and attacks against security installations during a wave of anti-government protests.

"I have ordered the transfer of 2 000 guards and 600 special operations troops" to the state of Tachira which borders Colombia, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said.

He said President Nicolas Maduro had ordered the move after violence escalated in the state capital San Cristobal and other towns.

Riots and looting have erupted across the country over the past six weeks in anger at Maduro's handling of an economic and political crisis.

Authorities said in a report on Wednesday that in Tachira some 20 businesses were looted, two police stations set on fire and a military outpost attacked with firebombs over the previous night.

One military commander was hurt, it said.

Clashes during anti-government protests have left 42 people dead across Venezuela since April 1.

Early elections 

Protesters blame Maduro for an economic crisis that has caused shortages of food and medicine. They are demanding early elections and accuse him of trying to cling to power.

Maduro has accused the opposition of plotting a coup against him with US backing.

"We cannot call these demonstrations. These are subversive actions," said Padrino, who as well as defence minister is commander of the armed forces.

He accused the opposition of trying to start a civil war and wanting "to turn Venezuela into another Syria".

"We will not let the homeland fall into chaos," he said.

Read more on:    venezuela

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