Riot police confront demonstrators during an anti-government protest in Caracas, on February 28, 2014Thousands of Venezuelans dressed in white, blowing on whistles and blasting horns, protested in Caracas Sunday against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, the latest in escalating demonstrations that have left 18 people dead. Hours earlier, authorities released dozens of protesters and an Italian photographer, but that did nothing to appease demonstrators angry at a soaring crime rate, spiraling inflation, the lack of basic goods and limited democratic rights. More than 260 people have been injured since a wave of nationwide protests erupted on February 4, in what has grown into the biggest threat to Maduro and his left-wing government since he succeeded socialist icon Hugo Chavez last year. Students and the opposition have accused the government of heavy handedness in dealing with protests that have roiled the capital Caracas on nearly a daily basis and also spread to other major cities.