Venezuela's Maduro gives ultimatum to Caracas protesters

Venezuela's Maduro gives ultimatum to Caracas protesters
Police walk through teargas as anti-government protesters throw firecrackers during clashes in Caracas March 15, 2014.

CARACAS - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro warned protesters in Caracas on Saturday to clear a square they have made their stronghold, or face eviction by security forces.

Plaza Altamira, in upscale east Caracas, has been a focus of anti-government protests and violence during six weeks of unrest around Venezuela that has killed 28 people.

"I'm giving the Chuckys, the killers, just a few hours,"Maduro said, using the name of a murderous child-doll in a horror film to describe anti-government demonstrators who have made the normally genteel 1940s square a base of operations. "If they don't retreat, I'm going to liberate those spaces with the security forces," Maduro added. "They have a few hours to go home ... Chuckys, get ready, we're coming for you."

Students and other protesters have been using the square, in the pro-opposition Chacao district of Caracas, as a rallying point since a wave of protests started to gather steam in mid-February.

Most nights around dusk, a hard core of several hundred demonstrators has been fighting police and army lines there, in an attempt to access a nearby highway and block traffic.

On Friday night, for example, security forces used water cannon and teargas in a battle against protesters using stones and petrol bombs, Reuters witnesses said.

At least a dozen people were arrested, and the noise of the fighting echoed across east Caracas for several hours.

In a speech at a military rally, Maduro also alleged that right-wingers in the State Department and Pentagon were recommending extreme measures against the Venezuela government, including economic sanctions and even his assassination.

"President (Barack) Obama, if this message reaches you, you should know that it would be the worst mistake of your life to sign the authorisation of the assassination of President Nicolas Maduro," he said in a high-octane speech recalling his predecessor Hugo Chavez's spats with the United States.

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