At least 2 shot in Venezuela after anti-Chavez march

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CARACAS, Nov 8 (Reuters) At least two people were shot at a Venezuelan university on Wednesday after a large student protest against President Hugo Chavez's drive to expand his powers, authorities said.

A handful of people were taken to hospital after violence at the university in Caracas following a march that drew thousands of students protesting Chavez's move to scrap term limits in a December referendum.

The government described the protest, one of several recent student-led demonstrations against the reform, as an opposition effort to destabilize the country in the run-up to the December 2 referendum that pollsters say Chavez is likely to win.

While the exact circumstances of the yesterday incident remained unclear, was the first time in the campaign there were serious injuries and came days after Chavez said the opposition wanted to stoke violence to destabilize the country.

The OPEC nation's civil defense chief, Antonio Rivero, told Globovision television station from the scene of the violence, that at least two people were shot and wounded.

The station showed images of hooded men throwing objects into university classes and other people, apparently students, running away.

Witnesses told Globovision, which is openly critical ofChavez and sympathetic to the opposition, that the assailants fired guns and threw tear gas canisters.

A Reuters witness at the scene said bystanders could not tell how the violence erupted.

After the initial violence, apparent Chavez supporters drove through the area on motorbikes and shot into the air, the witness added.

Chavez, first elected in 1999, would have to leave office in 2013 unless the rules are changed. He has proposed an overhaul of the constitution that also strips the central bank of its autonomy and empowers authorities in so-called emergencies to detain citizens without charge.

The opposition, church, students and rights groups havecondemned the move as authoritarian.

Interior Minister Pedro Carreno, in an evening television broadcast, accused students returning from the march ofattacking peacefully gathered pro-government students.

''They cannot continue to feed hatred in the live of Venezuelans,'' Carreno said.

He said that more than 100 people had to be evacuated from the area because they ''were about to be lynched by students returning from the march.'' REUTERS MP AS0740

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