Young protester dies, taking Venezuela unrest death toll to 37
CARACAS – A 20-year-old Venezuelan protester died today after being shot in the head, authorities said, taking fatalities from a month of anti-government unrest to at least 37 as the opposition geared up for more demonstrations.
Hecder Lugo was hurt during fighting between demonstrators and security forces in Valencia yesterday that also injured four others, the local opposition mayor Enzo Scarano said in a series of tweets.
The state prosecutor’s office, which keeps an official count of deaths since protests began against socialist President Nicolas Maduro in early April, confirmed he died after being shot in a protest.
Another 717 people have been injured and 152 are still in jail from the hundreds rounded up in widespread unrest around the volatile South American OPEC nation of 30 million people, according to the office’s latest tally.
There has been violence and widespread looting this week in Valencia, a once-bustling industrial hub two hours from the capital by road.
Venezuela’s opposition, which now enjoys majority support after being in the shadow of the ruling Socialist party since Hugo Chavez’s 1998 election win, says his successor Maduro has become a dictator and wrecked the economy.
Vowing to stay in the streets for as long as necessary, opposition leaders announced nationwide women’s marches for Saturday with the biggest planned for the capital Caracas.
Opposition lawmakers briefly unfurled a banner on Friday at the National Assembly, where they won a majority in 2015 thanks to voter ire over the recession, saying “Maduro Dictator”.
The president says they are seeking a violent coup with United States support, and is setting up a “constituent assembly” super body to shake up public powers, change the constitution, and possibly replace the existing legislature.
“President Maduro has made a big call to national dialogue,” Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told diplomats at a meeting today, showing them images of violence and vandalism on the streets caused by youths at the front of protests.
“They are not peaceful, the opposition leaders share big responsibility in these acts of extremism and vandalism.”
Fatalities have included supporters of both sides, bystanders and members of the security forces.
Gunshot wounds have been the most common cause of deaths.
The opposition is boycotting Maduro’s constituent assembly process, saying it is a ploy to keep him in power by setting up a body with mechanisms to ensure a government majority.
Having failed to trigger a referendum on his rule last year, the opposition is calling for delayed state gubernatorial elections to be held as soon as possible, and for the next presidential election slated for 2018 to be brought forward. (Reuters)