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Protests in Venezuela heat up as opposition further split over US sanction

Thursday - 5/15/2014, 1:10am  ET

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan security forces have arrested scores of people during a sweep of a busy Caracas avenue as protests against the government step up even as a rift opens up within the opposition over whether to back possible U.S. sanctions.

The protest and police response Wednesday comes as month-old negotiations aimed at easing tensions hangs in the balance. The opposition on Tuesday froze talks with President Nicolas Maduro's government, saying the climate for dialogue was impossible after the mass arrest last week of 200 student protesters who had been camping for weeks outside the offices of the United Nations.

Many political observers believe that by freezing the talks opposition leaders were caving to pressure from their own radical base, which is fuming over confusing statements by the top U.S. diplomat to Latin America. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson told a Senate panel last week that some members of Venezuela's opposition had asked the Obama administration to hold off on imposing sanctions, only to retract that statement later.

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APPHOTO XFLL103: Bolivarian National Guardsmen detain anti-government demonstrators during clashes at a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Members of Venezuela's opposition said they pulled out of crisis negotiations with the government over what they consider an unjustified crackdown on recent protests. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano) (14 May 2014)

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APPHOTO XFLL101: Bolivarian National Guardsmen struggle with several women that try to stop the arrest of a demonstrator during clashes at an anti-government protest in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Members of Venezuela's opposition said Tuesday they may pull out of crisis negotiations with the government over what they consider an unjustified crackdown on recent protests. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano) (14 May 2014)

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APPHOTO XFLL114: An anti-government demonstrator is held on the ground along with others, as he is detained by the Bolivarian National Guard, during clashes at a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Members of Venezuela's opposition pulled out of crisis negotiations with the government as security forces arrested scores of people in fierce clashes with demonstrators. (AP Photo/Alejandro Cegarra) (14 May 2014)

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APPHOTO XFLL108: An anti-government demonstrator is detained by the Bolivarian National Guard during clashes at a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Members of Venezuela's opposition pulled out of crisis negotiations with the government over what they consider an unjustified crackdown on recent protests.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano) (14 May 2014)

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