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Protesters demand Chavez's resignation
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Tens of thousands of Venezuelans opposed to President Hugo Chavez marched Saturday to demand his resignation and punishment for those responsible for 17 deaths during a coup in April.
The protesters demanded progress into police investigations into the April 11 slayings. The bloodshed sparked a two-day coup before Chavez was restored to power.
"Chavez leave now!" read a huge banner carried by protesters, many of whom wore bandanas reading "Forbidden to Forget." More than 100,000 people joined the fourth march against Chavez since the failed coup.
"The country is not going well with this president," said Magaly Villasmil, 53, a housewife. "I cannot stay in my house while he destroys it. I'm going to keep marching until I die because I'm going to kick him out."
More than 1,200 police officers were deployed, but no violence was reported.
Thousands of Chavez supporters staged a counter-march in the central city of Maracay, the nerve center for Venezuela's military.
"The problem is they can't leave him alone. He is an intelligent man. If God has him there, there must be a reason," said Wilma Chavez, 56, a maid who is not related to the president.
The government said the Caracas march underscored Venezuela's vibrant, if volatile, democracy. But the protest stoked fears of another military coup in this sharply divided nation -- and retaliation by civilian militias defending Chavez's leftist administration.
Saturday's protesters demanded progress into police investigations into the April 11 slayings. The bloodshed sparked a two-day coup before Chavez was restored to power.
Fears of trouble drove many Caracas residents to stock up on food. The State Department has issued a travel warning for Venezuela, one of the main exporters of oil to the United States.
Chavez blames the media for hyping the hysteria and has invited former President Carter to mediate talks with the opposition, which is trying to organize a referendum to oust him.
Chavez, a former army paratrooper who staged a failed 1992 coup, was elected president in 1998. His term ends in 2007.