Death toll in Venezuelan protests reaches nine


Reuters

CARACAS, April 21 (Reuters) - A man was killed in a protest
in the Venezuelan capital on Thursday night, an official said on
Friday, marking the ninth death in a wave of sometimes violent
demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro's government.
    Melvin Guaitan died of a bullet wound in the slum of Petare,
municipal mayor Carlos Ocariz said via Twitter. Local media
reported looting and street clashes with security forces in poor
areas of Caracas late on Thursday and early Friday.
    "We demand that those responsible for this incident are
investigated and punished," wrote Ocariz, without providing
additional details.
    Opposition leaders have promised to keep up their protests,
demanding that Maduro's government call regional elections that
have been delayed since last year, free almost 100 jailed
opposition activists and respect the autonomy of the
opposition-led Congress.
    They are calling for community-level protests across the
country on Friday, a white-clad "silent" march in Caracas on
Saturday to commemorate those killed in the unrest, and a
nationwide "sit-in" blocking Venezuela's main roads on Monday.
    Maduro's government is so far resisting the pressure of the
most serious protests in three years. Ruling Socialist Party
leaders describe the protesters as violent hoodlums who are
damaging public property and disrupting public order to
overthrow the government with the support of ideological
adversaries in Washington.
    "This wounded and failed opposition is trying to generate
chaos in key areas of the city and convince the world that we're
in some sort of civil war, the same playbook used for Syria, for
Libya and for Iraq," said Socialist Party official Freddy Bernal
in an internet broadcast at 1:00 a.m.
    A Reuters witness heard gunshots and tear gas canisters
being fired late into the night on Thursday in the working class
Caracas neighborhood of El Valle, with numerous businesses in
the morning showing signs of having been looted.
    Local media reported similar situations in other parts of
the city.
    The OPEC nation's economy has been in free-fall since the
collapse of oil prices in 2014. The generous oil-financed
welfare state created by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez,
Maduro's predecessor, has given way to a Soviet-style economy
marked by consumer shortages, triple-digit inflation and snaking
supermarket lines.
    Public anger at the situation spilled over last month when
the Supreme Court, which is seen as close to the government,
briefly assumed the powers of the Congress. The protests were
further fueled when the government barred the opposition's
best-known leader, two-time presidential candidate Henrique
Capriles, from holding public office.

 (Reporting by Eyanir Chinea and Brian Ellsworth; Editing by
Frances Kerry)
 ((brian.ellsworth@thomsonreuters.com; 58 212 655 2660; Reuters
Messaging: brian.ellsworth.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net,
@ReutersVzla))

Keywords: VENEZUELA POLITICS/ (PIX)



This article appears in: World Markets , Politics


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