Venezuela: Police fire rubber bullets on street protesters in violent unrest that has left 17 dead

Police in Venezuela fired rubber bullets and water cannons at demonstrators last night as increasingly violent anti-government protests spilled over into a second month.

Protesters improvised masks out of plastic water bottles and threw Molotov cocktails in the eastern suburbs of the capital, Caracas, with between 20 and 41 detained – while residents elsewhere in the city celebrated Carnival on a national holiday.

Around 1,000 protesters gathered again today in the Santa Monica neighbourhood, banging kitchen pans, honking car horns and carrying placards declaring: ‘I’m swapping Carnival 2014 for a free Venezuela!’.

The country’s foreign minister will meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday as pressure grows to halt the unrest which has killed at least 17 people.

Violence escalated after largely peaceful student marches on February 12, the nation’s National Youth Day, as many vent their frustration at food shortages, soaring violent crime and inflation that hit 56% last year.