Venezuela sends paratroopers to quell anti-government protests

Demonstrators throw rocks to the National Bolivarian Police (BNP) during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. Venezuelan security forces backed by water tanks and tear gas dispersed groups of anti-government demonstrators who tried to block Caracas' main highway Wednesday evening. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) (2/21/14)

CARACAS, Venezuela - (AP) Venezuela is sending paratroopers to a border area where anti-government protesters have been engaged in fierce clashes with police.
    
Meanwhile, Venezuela's security forces are being accused of turning many parts of the country into free-fire zones in their bid to silence a rejuvenated movement challenging socialist rule.
    
President Nicolas Maduro's opponents charge that he's sending the military, police and civilian militias after those who blame the administration for hardships in a country that is rich in oil but struggling with overheated inflation and one of the world's worst homicide rates.
    
Violence has escalated across Venezuela since a Feb. 12 opposition rally that was followed by battles between young activists and the National Guard in which three people died. At least three more deaths and dozens of injuries have occurred in protest violence since then.

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