Venezuela sees protests down to hard core, over by July

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuela’s three-month protest movement has dwindled to a hard core of a few hundred violent troublemakers and the unrest should be snuffed out by July, a top security official said.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez, who has been the public face of the government crackdown on demonstrators, told Reuters authorities were focused on about 100 radical opponents in Caracas and 100-200 elsewhere around the nation.

“They’re changing the tactics of subversion,” the 50-year-old army major-general said, pausing to take phone calls about the latest arrests on the streets of Caracas.

“First it was massive (marches), then street barricades, then tents. Now’s it’s very focused – they burn a vehicle or a ministry, they attack an official,” said Rodriguez, who last week participated in a 3 a.m. raid on protest camps.

The socialist government has cast the protest movement as a U.S.-supported coup plan, while foes say months of marches and clashes are the product of economic hardship and repression.

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