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39 dead in protests

Venezuela protest
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The United Nations office in Venezuela has expressed deep concern over the “high human cost” of anti-government protests, which have left 39 people dead during two months of unrest.

Since early February, students backed by the opposition have staged near-daily protests against leftist President Nicolas Maduro over soaring crime, high inflation and shortages of essential goods.

Hundreds of people have been detained or injured in clashes with security forces.

A UN statement on Saturday said people had the right to protest peacefully and rejected “any violent act, destruction of public and private property and obstruction to the free movement of citizens” by either side.

It also reiterated the request of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to “ensure the protection of human rights of all Venezuelans”.

The UN office in the capital Caracas has been targeted by demonstrators who have camped out at the local headquarters since late March, angry at what they see as an inadequate international response to the deaths of protesters.

The office acknowledged their right to demonstrate peacefully there, but asked protesters to keep road and walkways clear so traffic can pass and people can get into the building.

Maduro, the elected heir to late long-term leader Hugo Chavez, has lashed out at the demonstrations, branding them a “fascist” US-backed plot to overthrow his government.

Venezuela’s attorney general admitted last month demonstrators have been abused during weeks of protests and 60 complaints, including allegations of murder levelled at the police, are being investigated.