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Protests swept through the streets of Caracas, Venezuela on Wednesday, and the ensuing violence left at least two people dead from gunshot wounds and dozens wounded as anti-government protesters clashed with police.

Supporters and opponents of President Nicolas Maduro blamed each other for the violence, which erupted at the tail end of a peaceful protest opposing the arrest of student demonstrators. The protest was reportedly winding down when the first gunshots occurred, and "several hundred young protesters threw rocks at riot police officers and broke windows in a government building." Maduro speculated that snipers might have been responsible for the attacks.

Some news sources are reporting two people killed, while others are raising that number to three. An opposition lawmaker María Corina Machado told reporters that two students had been killed in the protests. The government also identified another casualty as Juan Montoya, a Maduro supporter who had known the president for decades.

In a televised speech, Maduro said that the protests were the work of "fascists" and that the government was facing a deliberate coup d'etat. He asserted that the commotion was "planned out" and added the foreboding statement that, "All the fascist groups that stirred violence throughout the country have been photographed and videotaped."

The weeks of protests—which concern everything from a stalling Venezuelan economy to high crime rates—are the largest crisis Maduro has faced since becoming president last year following the death of Hugo Chavez. Journalists in the country have also been targeted during the crisis; at least one journalist and one photographer were arrested and taken to separate military detention facilities. A Colombian television channel covering the protests was pulled off the air.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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