Universities hold one-day strike in Venezuela

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A number of universities in Venezuela have launched a 24-hour strike to demand the release of the students arrested during anti-government protests in the South American country.

Organizers say at least 18 public and private universities in the capital, Caracas, and other major cities launched a one-day strike on Thursday to push the government of President Nicolas Maduro to grant amnesty to those detained during the anti-government protests in the country.

Riot police reportedly blocked law students and lawyers from marching toward the Attorney General’s Office in Caracas.

The Federation of Associations of University Professors accused Maduro’s government of “criminalizing protests.”

Some pro-government student groups criticized the strike.

Earlier this week, Maduro urged opposition leaders to return to political talks aimed at ending more than three months of street clashes in the country.

The move came after the Venezuelan opposition suspended the negotiations with the government on May 14 to protest against what it called the mass arrests of anti-government activists.

The opposition says it will refuse to return to the negotiating table until the government accepts their demands, including amnesty for opposition prisoners. The government, on the other hand, has accused the opposition of making impossible requests that are akin to blackmail.

Venezuela has been the scene of protests against and in support of the Maduro administration since February. The protests broke out in the western city of San Cristobal, where students took to the streets to criticize the crime rate and inflation in the country. The demonstrations later spread to other cities including the capital.

Maduro says the unrest is a US-backed plan to topple his government.

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