Cop killed in clashes after raids in Venezuela

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CARACAS, Venezuela -- Young people clashed with police in the streets Thursday in an angry response to Venezuelan security forces dismantling four tent cities maintained by anti-government demonstrators, and officials reported one officer killed and another injured.

The bloodshed came after hundreds of police and troops arrested 243 student protesters during pre-dawn raids on camps in front of the offices of the United Nations and in better-off neighborhoods in the capital largely opposed to President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres presented homemade mortars, guns and Molotov cocktails that he said were seized at the camps and used to carry out "terrorist" acts against security forces.

He sought to counter claims that the anti-government movement has been peaceful and spontaneous.

Dozens of anti-government activists erected barricades throughout the day to express solidarity for the jailed students, setting off clashes with police. One officer was killed and another wounded by gunfire.

Mr. Maduro said the officer was killed by a sniper while police cleared the streets of debris in the leafy Chacao district where the U.N. office is.

The death brought to 42 the number of people on all sides who have been killed since anti-government protests began to roil the South American nation in February.

The dismantling of the camps was announced just hours before a top opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, was scheduled to appear in court after being in custody since February.

The hearing on whether he should begin trial on charges of inciting violence at anti-government protests was suspended and he was taken back to a military prison almost as soon as he arrived at the courthouse downtown.

The raids came as the U.S. Congress began debate Thursday in Washington on economic sanctions against top Venezuelan officials.

The Obama administration argued at a Senate committee hearing that sanctions would be premature while dialogue continues between Mr. Maduro's government and some members of the opposition.

Roberta Jacobson, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said some opposition leaders have urged the United States not to go forward with sanctions.

"They have asked us not to pursue them at this time," Ms. Jacobson said.


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