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Hundreds of protesters have gathered in Caracas at the start of a week-long carnival holiday.

They are demanding an end to a government crackdown on demonstrations and the release of those jailed in recent weeks.

Government opponents have been protesting against inflation, high crime rates and the shortages of many basic foods and goods.

Victoria Villegas, a student at the protests said: “The Venezuelan people are here demonstrating and nobody is going to Carnival, that would be disrespectful to all the people who have fallen in the fight for their country and we are here to demonstrate that we not going to rest for anything.”

The event also served to show support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Many Latin American nations, the Vatican and the White House, have called on both sides to talk. But most of the opposition declined to take part in a “peace conference” earlier this week.

When some of the protesters later moved toward a major highway to block traffic, security forces began to fire tear gas.

Some protesters hurled back tear gas canisters at security officers.

What began as student-led demonstrations earlier this month in several cities have taken a toll that the government puts at 16 dead.

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