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Police break up opposition march

Latest update : 2009-05-02

A march by unions and political parties opposed to Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was broken up by police using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons. Chavez was holding his own rally a few blocks away.

REUTERS - Venezuelan police using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons broke up a march by unions and political parties opposed to President Hugo Chavez on Friday in the latest clash between the government and critics.

Socialist Chavez has increased pressure on opponents in recent months after they won some key states and cities, including Caracas, in regional elections last year.

Friday's march to mark International Workers Day and protest against government pressure on the opposition was repelled by police after a small group tried to push past a barricade. Protesters scattered to escape tear gas, bursts of water and volleys of rubber bullets fired into the air.

"The national guard had to disperse them with a bit of gas but we are not going to allow violent acts. These streets belong to the people, not the oligarchy," Chavez said during a speech at a large march organized by the government a few blocks from the clashes.

Television images showed police pushing hundreds of opposition protesters back along the street in central Caracas, with at least one person carried off after apparently fainting.

"Why is one group allowed to march where they want, while other Venezuelans face barricades and fences?" asked Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma.

Many anti-government marchers carried posters of the OPEC nation's main opposition leader Manuel Rosales, who was granted asylum in Peru this week after he left Venezuela to escape corruption charges he claims are politically motivated.

The government has moved to limit the power of opposition governors and mayors this year, stripping them of control of airports, some hospitals and the Caracas police force.

A new law weakens Ledezma by dividing Caracas in two. On Thursday police and soldiers used tear gas and fired bullets in the air while seizing a health center run by an opposition mayor on the outskirts of Caracas.

Date created : 2009-05-02