Venezuelan police fired plastic bullets at protesting fishermen, injuring eight of them, after the rowdy group blocked access to an eastern seaport Thursday and vandalized the mayor's office, the state governor said.

Police arrested two of the protesters after fishermen used their boats to block access to Guiria Port, located about 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Caracas, Sucre state Gov. Ramon Martinez said.

"A group of people who want to destabilize the country is behind this," Martinez told state television. "There are eight people with injuries from plastic bullets, and two people detained."

Julio Casas, a protest organizer who suffered minor injuries, said that many more were hurt and that three suffered gunshot wounds. He said Venezuelan naval authorities also participated in the confrontation along with police.

Though Martinez said all the injuries were minor, Casas said at least one person was seriously hurt.

Casas said fishermen are upset about a decision by port authorities to stop offering refrigeration and fuel services. He said oil companies have begun using certain docks, preventing the anglers from using them.

"The administration of the port ... was handed over to private hands, and these people who manage the port removed the fisherman to rent it to the oil industry," Casas said in a phone interview. "The protest is going to continue."

Martinez said one group of protesters attempted to burn down the mayor's office and police seized guns belonging to government opponents who allegedly planned to join the protest.

Casas said the protesters pulled a door off the mayor's office and burned some furniture and tires outside before police arrived.

Casas said calm returned to the port town after the clash but that fishermen still had their boats lined up blocking access to the port.

CountryWatch: Venezuela

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