Venezuela protests spawn 'tear gas art' competition

Tue Jun 3, 2014 11:45am EDT
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By Alexandra Ulmer

CARACAS (Reuters) - Tear gas canisters fired by the thousands on the streets of Caracas are being transformed into sculptures in a competition seeking to give an artistic twist to this year's anti-government unrest in Venezuela.

The opposition-governed Chacao district, a hotbed of violent clashes between masked protesters and security forces in the capital, is inviting locals to submit creations by the end of this month based on spent canisters found on the streets.

"This initiative seeks to convert instruments of repression into a tool of peaceful protest," reads the council's invitation, which has a photo of a pink flower poking out of a canister.

"This is a symbol of the response of the Chacao municipality's residents to the disproportionate and inhumane acts of repression that have happened in our streets at the hands of the state security forces," the invitation said.

Each district in Caracas is governed by a mayor with considerable autonomy in the day-to-day running of affairs.

Rights groups and opponents of President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government say National Guard troops used excessive force to quell three months of near-daily protests that began in February.

Officials, though, say the demonstrations were cover for a U.S.-backed coup plot. They insist that security forces showed great restraint in the face of hooded protesters hurling rocks and gasoline bombs, and sometimes including gunmen.

At least 42 people died and nearly 900 were hurt in the violence around the protests, with victims on both sides.   Continued...

A tear gas canister shot by police lies on the floor of an apartment after it broke a window and exploded inside, in the Los Palos Grandes neighbourhood of Caracas, May 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Jorge Silva