Venezuela says 8 killed in violence

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SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela -- Venezuela's western state of Tachira was the flashpoint of tensions between anti-government protesters and security forces Friday,

Protesters blocked off some of the main roads in the capital, San Cristobal, public transportation was paralyzed, and few businesses were open.

President Nicolas Maduro's government has responded strongly to protests in Tachira as he faces the largest demonstrations since coming to power almost a year ago.

The country's interior minister, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, on Thursday announced a new plan to restore order in Tachira, which, he said, may include sending a battalion of paratroopers there.

"This battalion will reinforce the units that find themselves on the major roadways that converge in this city," Rodriguez said.

The military is necessary because the government believes that people from across the border in Colombia are crossing into Tachira to make trouble, Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, the government on Friday said that eight people have died in the violence related to the protests and clashes.

Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said another 137 have been injured.

Four people were killed in Caracas, two in Carabobo state, one in Sucre state and one in Lara state, he said.

The government and the opposition blame each other for the deaths.

Maduro singled out one opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, as responsible for calling for the protests.

Lopez turned himself in to authorities this week, and he was charged Thursday with arson and conspiracy. More serious charges of murder and terrorism were dropped.

If convicted, Lopez could face up to 10 years in prison.

The unrest

During the demonstrations, supporters of the country's socialist government and anti-government protesters have flooded social media with reports of violence, making drastically different claims about who's behind it.

Since February 13, more than 2,000 stories from Venezuela have been uploaded to iReport, CNN's user-generated platform. Many of the videos and photos depict violent scenes between demonstrators and government forces.

Alejandro Camacho Beomont told iReport that students Wednesday blocked streets and burned debris in San Cristobal, from where he sent photos -- and he said he didn't blame them.

"Even though I am always looking for peace to make a better place to live, I think people have the right to express themselves in the ways they can, and it is not easy to express yourself in this country now," he said. "I support the protesters. There have been more than 15 years that the majority of the Venezuelan citizens are going through tough times. There are so many problems we have to face every day, and there seems to be not a sincere attitude from the high government officials to rectify (them)."

In a nationally televised broadcast Wednesday night, Maduro described bullet wounds sustained by government forces during protests and showed videos that he said depicted opposition protesters throwing stones and setting buses ablaze.

"You think this is a novel? This is the reality that you with your hatred have created," he said. "If you don't like Venezuela, leave."

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