Chaos erupted in Venezuela this week during another round of protests against the socialist government, with buildings set afire, tear gas canisters lobbed back and forth, and at least three new deaths reported. Grisly videos captured much of Monday’s violence. In a video purporting to show the final moments of one man left dead in the turmoil, a crowd surrounds a man identified as 33 year-old Diego Hernandez. He lies on the pavement, his eyes open and fixed. A bystander tears off his blue T-shirt, revealing a bloody wound underneath.
“They killed him!” someone screams.
Officials in the western state of Tachira said a second man, Luis Alviarez, 18, died from a bullet to the chest amid the protests. And on Tuesday, 17-year-old Yeison Mora succumbed to a bullet to the head received during a protest in the plains state of Barinas.
Monday’s “sit-in against the dictatorship” began peacefully, but later in the day, demonstrators clashed with soldiers and police, throwing rocks and setting an armored truck on fire. State security officers unleashed a volley of tear gas and rubber bullets. Several buildings were set ablaze. Hundreds were injured across the country, including one young woman in a white shirt in Caracas, who stood on a street as blood streamed down her face.
Three officers were shot in the central state of Carabobo. One was in critical condition after being shot in the head, authorities said. In Lara, a vehicle ran over three protesters.
The unrest is taking a mounting toll as Venezuela’s opposition vows to step up near-daily demonstrations and Maduro shows no intention of conceding to opponents’ demands. More than three dozen people have been killed, including a national guardsman and a police officer. As many as 2,000 have been detained in nearly seven weeks of protests.
International pressure on the troubled South American nation is also increasing, with the Organization of American States voting Monday to hold a rare foreign ministers’ meeting later this month to discuss the crisis. The Washington-based group only convenes such meetings to address most urgent affairs.
The embattled Venezuelan president has vowed to resolve his nation’s crisis by convening a special assembly to rewrite the nation’s constitution, while the opposition is demanding that a new presidential election be held immediately.
Polls indicate the great majority of Venezuelans want Maduro gone as violent crime soars and the country falls into economic ruin, with triple-digit inflation and shortages of many basic foods and medical supplies.
The wave of protests was set off by a government move to nullify the opposition-controlled congress in late March, but the demonstrations have morphed into a general airing of grievances against the unpopular socialist administration amid worsening economic problems and rising crime.
Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said Monday that the opposition would take its protests “to the next stage” as Maduro continues his push to rewrite the nation’s constitution.
“We are against this fraudulent process,” Capriles said on his radio broadcast.