Eight electrocuted in Caracas looting amid Venezuela protests- firefighter


UPDATE 1-Eight electrocuted in Caracas looting amid Venezuela protests- firefighter

(Recasts with electrocution deaths)
    By Eyanir Chinea and Efrain OteroCARACAS, April 21 (Reuters) - Eight people were electrocuted
to death during a looting incident in Caracas, a firefighter
said on Friday, amid violent protests against Venezuelan
President Nicolas Maduro by opponents accusing him of seeking to
create a dictatorship.
    The accident occurred when a group of looters broke into a
bakery in the working class neighborhood of El Valle, according
the firefighter, who asked not be identified. It was not
immediately possible to confirm details of the incident with
hospital or other officials.
    The public prosecutor's office said later on Friday it was
investigating 11 deaths in El Valle, adding that "some" victims
had died from being electrocuted.
    Nine other people have been killed in violence associated
with a wave of anti-government demonstrations in the past three
weeks in which protesters have clashed with security forces in
melees lasting well into the night.
    "Yesterday around 9 or 10 (p.m.)things got pretty scary, a
group of people carrying weapons came down ... and started
looting," said Hane Mustafa, owner of a small supermarket in El
Valle, where broken bottles of soy sauce and ketchup littered
the floor between bare shelves.
    "The security situation is not in the hands of the
government. We lost everything here," said Mustafa, who said he
could hear the looting from his home, which is adjacent to the
    Dozens of businesses in the area showed signs of looting,
ranging from empty shelves to broken windows and twisted metal
entrance gates.
    The Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a
request for details.
    Security forces patrolled much of Caracas on Friday,
including El Valle.
    Maduro's government is so far resisting the pressure of the
most serious protests in three years as opposition leaders push
a series of political demands, drawing support from a public
angered by the country's collapsing economy.
    Ruling Socialist Party leaders describe the protesters as
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.

    Opposition leaders have promised to keep up their protests,
demanding that Maduro's government call general elections, 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.
    Daniela Alvarado, 25, who sells vegetables in the El Valle
area, said the looting on Thursday night began after police
officers fired tear gas and buckshot at demonstrators blocking a
street with burning tires.
    "People starting looting the businesses and yelling that
they were hungry and that they want the government out," said
Alvarado. "We're afraid (the stores) are going to run out of
everything, that tomorrow there won't be any food."
    Separately, a man was killed by a gunshot in the Caracas
slum of Petare on Thursday night, municipal mayor Carlos Ocariz
said on Friday.
    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.
    Many Venezuelans say they have to skip meals in order to
feed their children.
    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.

 (Additional reporting by Carlos Garcia and Brian Ellsworth;
Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and
Frances Kerry)
 ((brian.ellsworth@thomsonreuters.com; 58 212 655 2660; Reuters
Messaging: brian.ellsworth.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net,


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