In Pictures: Venezuela's protests escalate

Ongoing unrest across the country sets the streets on fire as violence threatens to spiral further.


Caracas, Venezuela - Political unrest and sporadic outbursts of violence have wracked parts of Venezuela since February 12. The story isn't new - members of the country's opposition claim the government is acting in an undemocratic way; supporters of President Nicholas Maduro say a vocal minority which can't win victories at the ballot box is attempting to cause chaos in the streets.
Government supporters were quiet on Wednesday and Thursday in the capital, but in Altamira Square, an opposition stronghold in eastern Caracas, student protesters burned rubbish and occasionally clashed with police on Wednesday and Thursday.
"We don't understand what they are trying to achieve by lighting fires on the streets," Omar Nasser, a pro-government activist told Al Jazeera. "They don't have a constructive or clear political project. They don't ask for anything when they protest."
After winning an election last year by a thin margin, Maduro and his governing socialists can't be challenged at the ballot box until 2016. Some opposition supporters say they can't wait that long for change and want Maduro to resign now. Others say they are fed up with insecurity, inflation and other social problems they say are worsening.
"There are many reasons for the protests: a lack of security, a bad economy and scarcity," Rey Quiros, a 27-year-old salesman, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday as he watched the demonstrations with a group of friends.
Pro-government candidates won more than three quarters of municipal seats in local elections in December, leading socialist supporters to say the opposition should get off the streets and find a way to better appeal to people.
Both sides agree that the situation could spiral out of control, but for now the demonstrations are relatively small compared with past mobilisations in the country with the world's largest oil reserves. Several people have, however, died across the country in ongoing political violence.

Follow Chris Arsenault on Twitter: @ChrisAJE