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In Venezuela protests, both sides draw battle lines -- but call for peace

From Osmary Hernandez and Rafael Romo, CNN
updated 4:06 AM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Venezuelan opposition protesters push to maintain momentum
  • The country's attorney general says 13 people have died in clashes during protests
  • Supporters rally behind President Maduro, who says he's planning peace conference

Read this story in Spanish at CNNMexico.com

Caracas, Venezuela (CNN) -- As Venezuelan opposition leaders push for demonstrators to stay in the streets, "he who tires, loses" is their mantra.

Lilian Tintori de Lopez, the wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, held up a T-shirt showing the phrase before protesters Monday.

Beside her, opposition leader Henrique Capriles called for demonstrators to keep demanding change from the South American country's government and described President Nicolas Maduro as "an error in the history of the country."

Outrage at soaring crime and a tanking economy triggered protests earlier this month.

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A masked anti-government demonstrator returns a tear gas canister to Bolivarian National Guards during clashes in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, April 12. For months, protesters unhappy with Venezuela's economy and rising crime have been at odds with security forces. A masked anti-government demonstrator returns a tear gas canister to Bolivarian National Guards during clashes in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, April 12. For months, protesters unhappy with Venezuela's economy and rising crime have been at odds with security forces.
Protests in Venezuela
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Photos: Protests in Venezuela Photos: Protests in Venezuela

Tintori called for a new demonstration Wednesday, asking women to march silently in peaceful protest, wearing white and carrying white flowers for each of their children, "for the future of our children and grandchildren." On their arms, she told them to wear black bands, "because we are in mourning for all those who have fallen in recent days."

Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said Monday that 13 people have died and at least 147 people have been injured in clashes since protests began.

Forty-five people detained during demonstrations remain behind bars; nine of them are government forces, she said.

Opposition leaders and government officials blame each other for the unrest, and both sides show no sign of backing down.

In a nationally televised government meeting, Maduro said he was convening a peace conference on Wednesday for mayors, governors and leading lawmakers to sign a deal renouncing violence.

As anti-government demonstrators barricaded streets and tried to maintain their momentum, supporters also rallied behind Maduro on Monday.

Pro-government motorcycle clubs were the latest core group to show public support for Maduro, who insists the opposition is trying to stage a U.S.-funded coup attempt.

Some opposition protesters have accused bands of pro-government motorcyclists of fueling violence during demonstrations.

Maduro called on the crowd Monday to help protect peace in the country and exercise "maximum self control."

"Do not fall for provocations and prepare yourselves," Maduro said. "We are facing a massive plan. ... We have to be prepared every day to defeat the continuous fascist coup."

READ: Can Venezuela's socialist government survive wave of protests?

READ: Protesters in Venezuela, Ukraine turn to peer-to-peer messaging app

READ: Venezuela says CNN can stay, a day after saying 'get out'

CNN's Karl Penhaul and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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