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Tuesday, 18 February 2014 | MYT 9:45 PM

Fourth person dies in Venezuelan political unrest

CARACAS (Reuters) - A student protester died in east Venezuela after being hit by a vehicle, the fourth fatality from political unrest over the past week, residents and opposition activists said on Tuesday.

They said the 17-year-old student was struck by a vehicle during a demonstration against President Nicolas Maduro's government late on Monday in the coastal town of Carupano.

That added to three fatal shootings last week during rival rallies in Caracas. Protests have multiplied across the South American OPEC nation since the start of February in the biggest challenge to Maduro since he was elected last year.

An opposition legislator and anti-government activists alleged that the student in Carupano, Jose Ernesto Mendez, was hit by a government supporter. But there was no independent confirmation or a response from authorities.

"For how long will the hate go on?" Cesar Rincones, a legislator from the opposition Democratic Action party, said in a tweet.

Residents said another three demonstrators were injured in the melee in Carupano, one gravely.

In Caracas, security forces with water-cannons and anti-riot gear patrolled the streets on Tuesday morning ahead of marches planned by Maduro supporters and opponents.

Many residents stayed at home, fearing more trouble after the daily clashes that have occurred since last Wednesday's fatalities in the capital.

Hardline opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, 42, has called his supporters out to accompany him on an anti-government march. He then intends to hand himself over to authorities, who have issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of murder and terrorism tied to the recent violence.

Maduro has also urged supporters to flood the streets.

(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, Deisy Buitrago and Jaczo Gomez; Editing by W Simon and Paul Simao)

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