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Student's funeral fuels more protest in Venezuela

Students demonstrate against the death of Jesus Ramirez along one of the main avenues in Caracas, Venezuela, on Wednesday.
Students demonstrate against the death of Jesus Ramirez along one of the main avenues in Caracas, Venezuela, on Wednesday.
  • University student shot dead while participating in a student protest
  • Chavez government blames police, opposition governor for bloodshed
  • Police response: "Those are baseless statements"
  • Venezuela
  • Hugo Chavez

(CNN) -- Mourners in the western Venezuelan state of Tachira on Wednesday laid to rest the body of a university student who was shot dead while participating in a student protest.

The killing of Jesus Eduardo Ramirez Bello, 19, brought to the forefront long-running tensions between the federal government of President Hugo Chavez and opposition governors, including the governor of Tachira.

Almost immediately after Tuesday's shooting, Minister for the Interior and Justice Tareck El Aissami blasted the police and opposition government of Tachira for failing to avoid the bloodshed.

"What there is no doubt about is that the police of Tachira state and under the authority of the irresponsible governor of that state used improper procedures that resulted in the unfortunate casualty of one dead student," El Aissami said in statement.

A Tachira police spokesman vigorously defended the department.

The national government is "saying that we were responsible, which is completely false," spokesman Ignacio Bolivar said. "Those are baseless statements."

The governor of Tachira is Cesar Perez Vivas, an opposition governor who unseated the previous pro-Chavez governor last year.

Venezuelan governors and mayors not aligned with Chavez have complained publicly in recent months that the federal government has targeted them and their services.

According to the National Experimental University of Tachira (UNET), students were protesting a reduction in the school's budget, failures in infrastructure that was affecting electricity and other public services. Tuesday's protest was also a response to an incident last week at another local university, where student protesters were shot at, injuring one.

Students from a nearby state-funded university faced off with the UNET students, and over the course of several hours the protest degenerated into a shouting match and rocks and other projectiles were thrown, Bolivar said.

Nonstudent supporters of Chavez also joined the counterprotest, and one of these men is suspected of the shooting into the crowd of protesters, Bolivar said.

Ramirez, a first-year mechanical engineering student, died en route to the hospital.