Fresh clashes have erupted in Venezuela’s capital, with hooded anti-government protesters hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at riot police who returned fire with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon.
Eight people were reported injured in the unrest that erupted on Sunday in Caracas’s upscale Chacao neighbourhood, a hotbed of anti-government opposition.
Oil-rich Venezuela has been rocked by two months of deadly protests, with at least 41 people killed since a wave of demonstrations against the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro broke out in early February.
Some 600 people have also been injured in the protests and around 100 have been detained.
Maduro, the hand-picked successor to the late leftist icon Hugo Chavez, was narrowly elected to office in a controversial election one year ago.
A former bus driver and union leader and the self-proclaimed “son” of Chavez, Maduro was elected after Chavez died from cancer and was sworn in on April 19, 2013, pledging to carry on his mentor’s socialist legacy.
Hundreds of anti-government activists marked Easter Sunday in Chacao by holding a peaceful march calling for the “resurrection of democracy.”
With Venezuelan flags fluttering in the wind, the crowd marched to the offices of the United Nations in Venezuela, where more than a month ago students set up some 120 tents and began to camp out seeking support against the Maduro administration.
After police and rioters clashed, Chacao Mayor Ramon Muchacho said in a Twitter message that of the eight injured – including four bruised and two hit by buck shot – there were no bullet injuries.
In a separate Easter tradition, effigies of Maduro and top government officials were set ablaze, a Venezuelan tradition known as the burning of Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus Christ.
“I’m tired of the abuses of the government,” said Genesis Reveron, a 20 year-old student who was dragging along a Maduro effigy to burn.
She blamed Maduro for the country’s high inflation and soaring crime rate.
Most economic analysts blame the country’s problems on a decade of rigid currency and price controls, as well rising dependence on imports and debt costs – a lacklustre record for a country that hosts the world’s largest oil reserves.
Maduro however says the problems are the result of an economic war waged by the right-wing bourgeoisie and the private sector, supported by US-based interest groups.
He says the protests are part of a coup plot supported by Washington.