The death toll from weeks of protests for and against the Venezuelan government has risen to 39 after two people died in separate incidents, according to the interior minister, Miguel Rodriguez.

A 44-year-old man died when he was struck by a high tension cable as demonstrators on Saturday carried a billboard to form a barricade in San Cristobal, a centre of anti-government protests.

In Maracaibo on the same day, a 33-year-old man was killed after a home-made mortar bomb he was carrying exploded, according to Rodriguez.

The Venezuelan government has faced a wave of street protests since February 4, with demonstrators angry over high levels of crime, hyper-inflation and shortages of essential goods.

Nicholas Maduro, the elected socialist president, has branded the demonstrations as a plot orchestrated by the United States to overthrow his government. Many of his supporter have also held rallies.

Rival demonstrations were held in the capital, Caracas, on Saturday.

"They arrest protesting students but leave criminals and thugs free. We are isolated and voiceless," said retired engineer Elias Jorge.

Marta Perez, 50, added: "We are tired of not having enough food to eat, and criminals killing our children."

Supporters of Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, meanwhile marched to the presidential palace to rally against the anti-government marches.

Source: AFP