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2 Killed in Venezuelan Protests


Authorities in Venezuela say two people were killed in student protests in the western state of Merida on Monday over the government's decision to shut down a leading opposition television station.

Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami said one of the victims, a 15-year-old student and Chavez supporter, was among students peaceably expressing their opinions when they were - in his words - "cowardly ambushed."

The minister says nine police officers were injured in the melee in Merida.

Another violent protest occurred Monday in Caracas, where police used tear gas to disperse college students marching on the headquarters of the state-run telecommunications agency. Pro-Chavez forces confronted the students as they marched on the agency.

In other developments Monday, Venezuela's vice president resigned. Ramon Carrizalez, who was also defense minister, cited personal reasons for the decision.

Radio Caracas Television and five other channels disappeared from cable systems Sunday morning after government officials ruled they failed to comply with new regulations obligating TV coverage of Mr. Chavez's speeches.

RCTV switched to cable-only service in 2007 after the government refused to renew the channel's broadcasting license.

The media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders says RCTV's closure shows what the press freedom group calls "the government's allergic reaction to dissident voices."

From Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley says the U.S. embassy in Caracas has expressed its concerns over the station's closure, calling it "an area of concern."

Jose Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, has called on Venezuela to allow an OAS delegation to visit the country.

Mr. Chavez is facing an election in September in which he hopes to retain control of Congress. Thousands of Venezuelans took part in street demonstrations in Caracas Saturday, both in support of and against Mr. Chavez.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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