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Venezuelan military, police arrest hundreds, 14 killed in giant anti-crime operation

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - JANUARY 7:  National Guard soldiers guard tax offices (SENIAT) during a protest by the opposition of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez January 7, 2003 in Caracus, Venezuela. Thousands of protesters marched on the tax office urging people to withold tax payments from the Venezuelan government. Chavez warned that not paying taxes is a crime and punishable with seven years in prison.

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - JANUARY 7: National Guard soldiers guard tax offices (SENIAT) during a protest by the opposition of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez January 7, 2003 in Caracus, Venezuela. Thousands of protesters marched on the tax office urging people to withold tax payments from the Venezuelan government. Chavez warned that not paying taxes is a crime and punishable with seven years in prison.

Venezuelan officials say an offensive against criminal organizations in the capital over the past two days brought about 236 arrests as well as the death of 14 suspects.

The minister for internal affairs said Monday that several thousand soldiers and police are involved in the special operation aimed at attacking rising crime in Caracas.

Maj. Gen. Gustavo González López said on state television that the offensive is underway in areas of the city where gangs are known to operate.

He said 32 of those arrested are foreigners and are being investigated for possible links to right-wing paramilitary groups that arose in neighboring Colombia during its five-decade-long civil conflict.

High crime is a major complaint among Venezuelans unhappy with the government, which is also dealing with over-heated inflation and shortages of basic goods.

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