Venezuela arrests hundreds, sparking opposition protest

– Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said four encampments in the eastern part of the capital, Caracas, had been cleared.
– He said members of the National Guard had found "drugs, weapons, explosives and mortars" in the tents.
Hundreds of Venezuelan police and troops broke up four makeshift camps maintained by student protesters, arresting 243 people Thursday in pre-dawn raids.
Anger about Venezuela\’s lack of security and high crime rates, as well as frustration with the country\’s poor economic situation have led to mass protests against the government over the past months.
Students have been at the forefront of the protests, erecting barricades and organising demonstrations and sit-ins.
Members of the National Guard "impounded drugs, weapons, explosives…all of the things that they were using every day to violently confront security forces", Miguel Rodriguez Torres, Venezuela\’s interior minister, said on state television, adding that 243 people were arrested and would appear in court in the coming hours.
Francia Cacique, the leader of the one of the camps, called the raid illegal and denied accusations that students were plotting subversive activities.
"They\’ve come up with the excuse of drugs and weapons, which is totally false," Cacique told the Reuters news agency over instant messaging, adding that the detained protesters were being held at a Caracas military base.
"I call on the world to help us and to realise that this is a dictatorship," Cacique said.
The government has labelled the protesters "fascist agitators", accusing them of fomenting a coup against the left-wing government of President Nicolas Maduro "with US backing".
The South American country has experienced waves of demonstrations that have killed 41 people on all sides, and injured 785 others, since February.
Opposition activists launched the protests due to frustrations over soaring prices, chronic product shortages and abuse by security forces.
At least 2,200 people have been arrested in connection with the demonstrations over the last few months.
Maduro\’s administration has grown increasingly fed up with the ongoing protests and last week announced that it had arrested 58 foreigners, including an American, on suspicion of inciting violent demonstrations against the government.
Both Maduro and Rodriguez Torres have said the protests are a plot to promote unrest and overthrow the current 
Source: Agencies
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