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Despite holiday, Venezuelans continue to amass

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By The Los Angeles Times
Sunday, March 2, 2014, 9:15 p.m.

CARACAS — Tens of thousands of students and other opponents of the Venezuelan government filled the streets of the capital on Sunday, putting a damper on President Nicolas Maduro's hopes that a mandated holiday might bring a respite from weeks of protests.

The march originated at four points near universities in Caracas that have been opposition hotbeds and converged on the Chacaito barrio, where opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was arrested on Feb. 18, accused of incitement to violence.

Opposition leaders say the charges against Lopez are politically motivated and have demanded his release from the military prison where he is being held in isolation.

Each of the four “feeder” marches had a theme built around a complaint against the Maduro administration: justice, scarcities, freedom and censorship.

The march took place a day after the release of 41 protesters detained late Friday by authorities in Altamira Square, a focal point of opposition to Maduro.

Also on Saturday, Tachira state Gov. Jose Vielma Mora said two national guard members had been injured while trying to clear debris from streets in the state capital of San Cristobal, a scene of ongoing clashes between students and authorities.

The government said Foreign Minister Elias Jaua will meet with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Venezuela. Ban has called on Maduro to open a dialogue with the opposition.

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