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Venezuela arrests alleged car bomber

By Agencies in Caracas | China Daily | Updated: 2014-02-26 07:16

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro told reporters on Monday that a "mercenary from the Middle East" had been arrested for allegedly plotting to set off car bombs in the Latin American country.

The arrest comes against the background of increasing violence across the country as opposition forces continue protests that have left at least 14 people dead in the past three weeks.

Since the protests began, Maduro has made claims that foreign countries, particularly the United States, are stirring unrest in Venezuela in an effort to bring down his government.

Maduro announced the arrest of the terror suspect in Aragua state during a radio and television address but did not give the man's nationality.

Aragua state governor Tareck El Aissami later tweeted that the suspect, identified as Jayssam Mokded Mokded, was detained in Maracay with an armed car, and with US and Colombian communications equipment.

US media identified Mokded as a resident of the US state of Florida; they did not give his nationality but his business is in a town with a large Venezuelan community.

Opposition protesters, including students, erected barricades in major cities on Monday in some of the most strident demonstrations against Maduro's government since the protests began.

Tires were burned in cities from the Andes to the plains to Caracas near the Caribbean, adding to the pressure on Maduro's administration.

Police firing tear gas dispersed some 50 demonstrators in Caracas late on Monday. They had been blocking streets with barricades in the posh district of Chacao.

Protests continue

In San Cristobal, near the Colombian border, where some of the country's recent protests first erupted among students on Feb 4, riot police used tear gas to break up a demonstration.

In the latest reported death, a student who was on a rooftop terrace fell backward to his death on the street as police were breaking up the crowd.

With 45 people still under arrest after marches largely inspired by the country's dire shortages of basic goods and longstanding problems with inflation, the potential for escalation remained palpable.

In a rare public split within Maduro's ranks, a ruling party governor called for the release of all jailed protesters, an intervention that came ahead of a meeting of his counterparts, called by the president.

Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora, the governor of the western state of Tachira where the student-led protests began, also criticized the government's use of the military, calling the response "a grave error" and "unacceptable excess".

Maduro insists the protests are a US-inspired coup d'etat to assail his rule, less than a year since he was narrowly elected successor to the late icon Hugo Chavez, whose policies he has continued.

The students, however, have been a vanguard for public outrage at what they see as grim prospects for Venezuelans that they attribute to economic mismanagement under Maduro and Chavez.

Around 50,000 people turned out on Saturday for a massive demonstration called by Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro in the 2013 election while disputing the vote but who has remained in the background of the latest protests.

Capriles did not attend the governors' meeting on Monday. "I am not going to make Nicolas Maduro look good. ... That is what they want, that I go there as if the country was absolutely normal," he said.


 Venezuela arrests alleged car bomber

Anti-government demonstrators clash with riot police at Altamira Square in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday. Carlos Garcia Rawllins / Reuters

(China Daily 02/26/2014 page10)

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