Anti-Chavez Protesters March on State Energy Co.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

CARACAS, Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Thousands of university students protested in Venezuela's capital on Thursday, accusing President Hugo Chavez of forcing an opposition channel off cable and satellite TV as part of a broader strategy aimed at curbing criticism of mounting domestic problems.

It was the fifth straight day of student protests following the removal of Radio Caracas Television Internacional, or RCTV.

''We are not going to allow continued shutdowns of media outlets that tell the truth, and we are not going to allow ineptitude and inefficiency to continue,'' said Nizar El Sakih, a student leader.

Government critics argue Chavez is responsible for pressing problems ranging from double-digit inflation to violent crime to rolling blackouts, and demonstrators marched to the headquarters of the state-run electricity company to call attention to the energy shortages.

The government says RCTV was removed for refusing to comply with a new rule obliging media outlets to televise mandatory programming, including Chavez's speeches.

On Thursday, the president accused the students of trying to stir up violence as a means of destabilizing his government.

''There are some attempting to set fire to the country,'' Chavez said in a televised address. ''What are they seeking? Death.''

The socialist leader vowed to crack down on street demonstrations that turn violent.

''We cannot permit this,'' he said. ''The state and the government must impose authority.''

Two youths have been killed and dozens of people injured during this week's protests.

Some of the demonstrations have produced clashes between pro-Chavez and opposition-sided students. Police have broken up other protests with tear gas and plastic bullets.