02/27/2014 05:48 pm ET Updated Feb 28, 2014

Hugo Chavez Statue Decapitated As Venezuela Protests Continue

Protesters in the Venezuelan state of Táchira chopped the head off a statue of former President Hugo Chávez Wednesday and circulated the image on social media, according to local press reports.

The symbolic episode in the city of San Antonio highlighted the continuing tensions between protesters and the Socialist government since widespread, student-led demonstrations began on Feb. 12.

Chávez, who held the presidency from 1999 until his death last year, remains one of the most revered figures among the Venezuelan left. He won four presidential elections and defeated a recall referendum, campaigning as a champion of the poor who used profits from the state-owned oil company to expand the country’s social spending.

But the opposition to the leftist government faults Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, for social and economic problems including an inflation rate topping 50 percent, soaring numbers of homicides, and shortages of consumer goods ranging from toilet paper to corn flour.

Political polarization, long a feature of Venezuelan politics, has grown more acute since Chávez’s death. Maduro won the presidency last year by a slim margin, with 50.8 percent of the vote against challenger Henrique Capriles’ 49.0 percent.

At least 16 people have died since the protests began, according to the Associated Press.

The government sent troops to Táchira last week to control protests there.



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