Students stitch lips in protest
Four students in Venezuela have partially sewn their lips together to press their demands for funding for public universities as part of a growing hunger strike.
One 18-year-old student, Gabriela Torrijos, stitched the left corner of her mouth together as she and a group of other students maintained their hunger strike outside the UN development programme office in Caracas. Three other students have partly sewn their lips in the past several days.
The hunger strike began with five students on February 23 and has grown since. Students say their universities may not be able to keep operating if the government does not provide adequate funding.
University administrators have said that by early April more than two dozen public universities in the country may not have enough funds to keep cafeterias running or purchase supplies.
Government officials dispute those claims, saying the students are being manipulated by president Hugo Chavez's opponents.
"If they want to walk naked through the street, let them do it. If they want to sew whatever they want to sew, let them sew it, but ... we're going to keep working for our homeland," foreign minister Nicolas Maduro said during a televised event in south-eastern Bolivar state.
Referring to the protest, Mr Maduro said it shows the right-wing in Venezuela "continues with its madness".
Miss Torrijos, a political science student at the Central University of Venezuela, said she joined the hunger strike four days ago to demand action by the government in providing needed funding.
Miss Torrijos was in pain after she partially stitched her lips together with her own hands. "After seeing my friends take this action, I did it in solidarity with them," she told The Associated Press.