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Maduro pummels Venezuelan slums as his power comes under attack


Caracas, Venezuela: As the opposition campaign to oust President Nicolas Maduro dramatically escalated, the warren-like streets of the Puerta Caracas slum filled with pot-banging, anti-government demonstrators.

A culture centre run by Maduro loyalists was burnt down. Hungry, beaten-down residents felt a rush of hope.

Nicolas Maduro with a tiny copy of the constitution during his swearing in as president on January 10.

Then night fell, along with the boot steps of government forces.

Maduro called the arsonists "fascist criminals," and residents in the western Caracas enclave paid the price. Mask-wearing special forces, locals said, swarmed the suburb last week, kicking in doors, rounding up young people and imposing a curfew.

The assault on Puerta Caracas is part of what observers call the most ruthless crackdown unleashed by Maduro since coming to power in 2013. Over the past week, similar operations have extended to at least five other rebellious slums across the capital, leaving 35 people dead - including victims as young as 16 - and more than 850 arrested.

With a mural depicting the eyes of Veneuzela's late President Hugo Chavez, Carlos Gonzales carries a bag with food delivered by the government for the poorest people in the Antimano neighbourhood of Caracas, Venezuela.

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