Belfast Telegraph Dec 24, 2010
Police and soldiers fired water cannons and plastic bullets as thousands
of students protested against a law passed by Venezuela's congress that
increases the government's powers over universities.
At least four people were injured on Thursday, including a photographer
who was treated for a cut to the head after being hit with an object.
Dozens of police and National Guard troops in anti-riot gear blocked
protesters including students and professors outside the Central
University of Venezuela in Caracas, firing plastic bullets into the air
and also at demonstrators.
The law governing universities was approved by the National Assembly
before dawn yesterday and students condemned it as an attempt by President
Hugo Chavez to clamp down on autonomous state universities that have been
a bastion of opposition to his government.
Mr Chavez condemned the protest, accusing the group of "trying to lead us
into violence". "We don't want violence. We want them to let us work in
peace," he said on state television as he visited a hospital.
The law gives Mr Chavez's higher education minister broad powers to decide
on academic programmes and university operations, and says universities
should promote education that reinforces the government's aim of building
a "socialist homeland".
Anti-Chavez protesters say the law gives too much power to the national
government and also seeks to impose socialist ideology.
"They won't take away our right to protest," the protesters chanted. "Long
live the university! ... Out with the military boot!"
The students had planned to march to the National Assembly but were turned
back. Later, hundreds of students managed to continue the march through
Caracas on another route, evading authorities who were firing plastic
bullets and a water cannon, and shouting: "People, listen! This is a
The protest ended peacefully once they circled back to Plaza Venezuela
near the university.