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In photos: the Venezuelan demonstrators who jumped into a stinking river to avoid tear gas and riot troops

Any attempt by opposition protesters to reach the center of Caracas has been repelled by a hail of tear gas and shotgun pellets by Venezuelan police and National Guard riot troops. On April 19, some chose to escape across the Guaire River, a notorious open sewage-laden canal that divides the south and north side of the city. In 2005 the government of Hugo Chavez began a project to clean up the river that was never completed. Experts say at least $14 billion has been spent on it, without any visible results.

Por: Univision
Publicado: 25 Apr | 11:00 AM EDT
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The dry season has kept the Guaire River at a low level, allowing protesters to cross it to protect themselves. But those who cross the river risk exposure to diseases such as cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid and salmonella, among others. Foto: MARCO BELLO/Reuters | Univision
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Marchers on April 19 were headed to the offices of the national Ombudsman's Office, in the center of Caracas. Authorities blocked the protesters and fired tear gas, forcing some activists to seek protection in the river's polluted waters. Foto: Twitter | Univision
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Forming a human chain, the government opponents helped the weakest cross the river, which is deepest in the middle. Foto: ANA CUBILLOS/Ap | Univision
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A protester was hit in the head by a tear-gas canister fired by police as he crossed the filthy river. Foto: Fernando Llano/Ap | Univision
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The police, armed and protected with shields, forced the demonstrators to shelter on the banks of the river Guaire. Foto: JUAN BARRETO/Reuters | Univision
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If ingested by any bodily orifice the contaminated water could exposed someone to diseases such as dysentery, cholera or typhoid fever. Foto: MARCO BELLO/Reuters | Univision
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A protester with a gas mask crosses the Guaire river. The gas mask serves to protect wearers from tear gas as well as the stench of sewage in the river. Foto: Santi Donaire/Efe | Univision
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Venezuela's economic crisis has led to a severe shortage of medicines, making treatment for infectious disease even more risky. Foto: Leo Álvarez/Getty Images | Univision
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Protesters hide from police at one of the sewage drain that flows into the river. Foto: Leo Álvarez/Getty Images | Univision
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Some demonstrators managed to cross the river using pipes as a bridge, others waded through the sewage-filled waters. Foto: Twitter/Leonardo Padron | Univision