CARACAS -- Hundreds of protesters blocked a main highway yesterday, chanting ''We want justice!" after the slaying of three brothers set off an outcry against violent crime and police corruption.
The bodies of the Faddoul brothers -- John, 17, Kevin, 13, and Jason, 12, with dual Canadian-Venezuelan citizenship -- were found Tuesday near an electrical tower outside Caracas, more than a month after they were kidnapped at a bogus police checkpoint on their way to school. They were shot in the head and neck.
Authorities also found the body of their driver, Miguel Ribas, 30.
In a country facing rampant crime, the killings drew widespread mourning and a sudden outburst of frustration at the day-to-day anxiety felt by Venezuelans about their security.
''Yesterday, it was them. Tomorrow, we don't know which one of us it could be," said protester Maria Luisa Romero, 39. ''They were innocent children beginning to live their lives. That's why we're here demanding justice."
About 400 demonstrators froze traffic on a major highway by lying on the asphalt and sitting in circles holding placards, while burning tires blocked an onramp.
As two police on a motorcycle approached, the crowd chanted ''Respect!" and ''We want justice!" while other police holding gas masks looked on from a distance.
Elsewhere, 200 protesters gathered outside the Justice Ministry, demanding that the police forces be purged and accusing authorities of failing to fight crime.
Elizabeth Acevedo, a 40-year-old mother of two, blasted Justice Minister Jesse Chacon for comments Tuesday night calling on people not to turn the tragedy into a political issue.
''This is political. The police kill and they do nothing about it," she said. ''I feel the pain of impotence."
Authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the kidnappers could be active police officers.
Officials said the kidnappers had demanded more than $4.5 million -- a ransom too steep for the parents to pay, their lawyer, Santiago Georges, said.