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Four Venezuelan Police Officers Shot in Student Protest

Venezuelan officials say at least four police officers were wounded Friday after gunfire erupted during student protests in the western city of Merida.

Authorities say no one was killed. The exact circumstances surrounding the shooting remain unclear.

Earlier, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez publicly lashed out at the thousands of students who rallied Wednesday in Caracas against planned constitutional changes that would greatly expand his power. They said that Venezuelans do not yet understand the scope of the reforms being put to a vote on December 2.

Mr. Chavez described the Wednesday protests as a "fascist assault" backed by Washington and wealthy Venezuelans. He made his comments in Santiago, Chile at the annual Ibero-American summit, which brings together leaders from Spain, Andorra, Portugal and Latin America.

Venezuelan officials say seven people were injured, including at least two by gunfire, when unidentified assailants opened fire Wednesday on the students from the Central University of Venezuela. The trouble happened as they returned to campus after marching to the country's Supreme Court to demand it postpone the referendum.

In a national address, Interior Minister Pedro Carreno asked university officials to restore order and offered to send in troops to quell the violence. The school refused, saying its autonomy was at stake.

The constitutional changes would eliminate presidential term limits, further Mr. Chavez's socialist reforms and strip the central bank of its autonomy. They also would give authorities sweeping powers if a national emergency is declared, including detention without charges and controls on the news media.

Venezuela's opposition parties, human rights groups and the Roman Catholic Church have condemned the plan. Former Venezuelan Defense Minister Raul Baduel says the changes would amount to a coup d'etat by Mr. Chavez.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.