Venezuela prosecutor sees police 'excesses' in protest crackdown

CARACAS Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:10pm GMT

1 of 2. Anti-government protesters run from tear gas during a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government in San Cristobal March 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's top state prosecutor on Sunday said security forces had committed "excesses" in breaking up nearly two months of opposition protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro that have left at least 34 dead.

Maduro's adversaries have accused the National Guard of brutally repressing the demonstrations, while the president says security forces have in fact been restrained in face of violent disruptions of public order.

"With regards to the violation of human rights, yes, there have been excesses by police, but state prosecutors are investigating this," said Luisa Ortega, the top state prosecutor, during an interview broadcast on Sunday.

Since the start of the demonstrations, state prosecutors have opened 60 investigations into alleged human rights violations and imprisoned 15 officials in connection with those incidents, she said.

Three people have died from gunshot wounds in shootouts linked to the protests, witnesses and local media said on Saturday.

Demonstrators have been clashing nearly every day with riot police since the demonstrations began, with security forces firing tear gas and buckshot and the demonstrators responding with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Opposition activists have shown videos of troops and police beating student demonstrators as evidence of excessive force.

Maduro's sympathizers have shown videos of hooded assailants attacking government offices and say improvised barricades have restricted free transit and caused deaths by preventing the ill from receiving treatment.

(Reporting by Diego Ore, writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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