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Maduro says no chance of coup after deadly Venezuela demos

President Nicolas Maduro vowed Wednesday to tighten security in cities across Venezuela after protests against his government turned deadly, killing three people and injuring 26 others.

CARACAS: President Nicolas Maduro vowed Wednesday to tighten security in cities across Venezuela after protests against his government turned deadly, killing three people and injuring 26 others.

"There will be no coup d'etat in Venezuela; you can rest assured. Democracy will continue and the revolution will continue," Maduro said on national television.

"I have given clear instructions to state security agencies to secure the country's main cities. Anyone who goes out to try to carry out violence will be arrested."

At least 30 people were arrested as rival protests linked to his country's deepening economic crisis exploded into violence.

A pro-government demonstrator and two student protesters were killed as rallies both for and against Venezuela's government escalated.

Unidentified assailants earlier fired into a rally outside the attorney general's office in Caracas.

The OPEC member nation, with an institutionally socialist government dependent on oil revenues in a state-led system, sits atop the world's largest proven reserves of crude.

Yet its economy has been battered by inflation of more than 50 per cent a year.

Venezuela has had economic problems go from bad to worse amid shortages of hard currency, while dwindling supplies of consumer goods have frustrated some government supporters.

The government blames "bourgeois" local business interests for trying to profit from its largely low- and middle-income political base. It has engaged in privatisations and unpopular currency controls.

National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello denounced "the killing of a fighting member of the Bolivarian Revolution in the Plaza La Candelaria" some 200 metres (650 feet) from where the opposition supporters were rallying.

"This is a provocation from the right," Cabello charged, calling for "calm and sanity."

Media in the mix

Authorities took several actions against reporters and media.

Journalists union chief Marco Ruiz said that a photographer and a reporter were arrested while covering the protests, and that they were taken to different military detention facilities.

Colombian news channel NTN24, which had been covering the protests in depth, was abruptly pulled off the air.

Outside AFP's office in Caracas, riot police used tear gas to break up about 100 student protesters.

Then equipment used to film the news, including one video camera belonging to AFP, was stolen as authorities looked on.

Students lead the charge

Thousands of students, accompanied by several opposition politicians, had converged in downtown Caracas to denounce the economic policies of Maduro, who succeeded the late Hugo Chavez as president last year.

"We came out for a peaceful protest and they have killed two students on us? How can this be?" asked Catholic University student Vanessa Eisi.

A day earlier, five youths were shot when more motorcycle-riding gunmen opened fire on protests in the Andean city of Merida, local media and student groups have said. Another 10 students participating in the protests were arrested.

"We students are sick and tired of living in fear because of violent crime. We are sick of having to leave the country because when we graduate, there is nothing here," said Biaggo Alvarado, a 20-year-old who declined to name his university.

Protesters demanded the release of students detained in Merida and elsewhere during recent demonstrations in the country's interior.

"We will not be cowed," cried David Smolansky, a former student leader now mayor of the Caracas municipality of El Hatillo, challenging the government to "see who is stronger."

"They have taken our students prisoner. We want them released!" he shouted.

The flag-waving crowd chanted: "It is going to fall, it is going to fall, this government is going to fall."

Elsewhere in Caracas and in other cities, waves of protesters clad in red -- the color of "Chavismo" -- gathered in support of Maduro.

They chanted slogans backing his "economic war" against speculators and private economic interests that he blames for the skyrocketing inflation and shortages.

State television had been showing images of the pro-government protests, which Maduro was scheduled to attend, while private channels showed intermittent images of the opposition demonstrations.

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