Venezuelan crisis: Tensions in Caracas remain high as President Nicolas Maduro holds firm

Protesters are demanding the removal of Mr Maduro for his failure to prevent shortages, tackle inflation and reduce crime

Tensions remain high in Caracas as anti-government protesters took to the streets, continuing a stand-off that has already cost 13 lives and created the greatest challenge to President Nicolas Maduro since taking office nearly a year ago.

Since the crisis began nearly two weeks ago, 500 people have been arrested across Venezuela and roughly 150 have been injured. Today, student protestors again erected barricades in the city, risking fresh clashes with ‘Chavista’ supporters of Mr Maduro and with police. There were also reports of looting breaking out in provincial cities.

The US said it was expelling three Venezuela diplomats in tit-for-tat retaliation for the ejection last week of three US consular officials from Caracas. Neither country has exchanged ambassadors since 2010.

Protesters, so far mostly students and middle class Venezuelans, are demanding the removal of Mr Maduro for his failure to prevent shortages, tackle inflation and reduce crime. They have been inflamed by the imprisonment last week of their leader, Leopoldo Lopez, founder of the opposition Popular Will Party.

Henrique Capriles, a more moderate opposition figure who narrowly lost to Mr Maduro in elections last spring, has refused to meet with Mr Maduro to discuss ending the crisis while Mr Lopez remains behind bars.

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