Government officials claim the protests are limited, but the sense of tension - as well as government repression - is escalating. On Wednesday night, groups of protesters across the country were dispersed by National Guard troops firing teargas and rubber bullets in what has been the strongest show of government force so far. The centre of Valencia - a northern industrial city and Venezuela's third largest - was filled with flames as demonstrators blocked the streets. In the Altavista area of Puerto Ordaz , in Bolivar state, witnesses said national guard troops fired rubber bullets and teargas to break up a student protest camp, and stood by as about 60 plainclothes government supporters on motorbikes opened fire at protesters. "The tanks, the guard and the motorizados were all shooting at the students. There are several wounded," said Ines Duran , who had been providing food and water to the students. "They have the weapons, we only have sticks and rocks."