Published On: Mon, May 22nd, 2017

Venezuela death toll nears 50 as protest violence escalates

Protests in Venezuela continue.

venezuela (1)CARACAS – A 23-year-old man died from a gunshot wound to the chest on Saturday, raising to 48 the number of people known to have been killed in seven weeks of protests against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

Gunmen were alleged to have opened fire on an anti-government demonstration in the western city of Valera, according to the attorney general’s office.

Also wounded in the shootings were an 18-year-old male and a 50-year-old woman, it said in a statement.

The shootings took place amid massive demonstrations across the country in which protesters upped their demands for free and fair elections to replace Maduro.

In some areas, the demonstrations deteriorated into violent clashes between protesters, police and government troops, and a 21-year-old man was reportedly set on fire in Caracas.

Forty-six people were injured in Saturday’s protests, according to the mayor of a municipality in the eastern part of Caracas, while in the Caracas suburb of San Antonio Los Altos a youth was wounded by gunfire, the opposition governor of the state of Miranda said.

Hundreds of people have been injured since the protests began April 1, and some 2,200 have been detained, 161 of them jailed on orders of military courts, according to Foro Penal, a non- governmental monitor.

Adding fuel to the flames of a volatile situation, Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles says he has been stopped from leaving the country to meet UN officials in New York. He said his passport had been seized at the airport and would not be returned until 2020.

“I have not been able to travel,” he said in a video posted online. “I will not be able to attend the meeting with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”

Capriles, who is viewed as the opposition’s best hope of defeating President Nicolas Maduro at the polls, has been at the forefront of demands for a presidential recall referendum.

He was recently banned from politics for 15 years, further inflaming protesters.

Seven in 10 Venezuelans reject Maduro’s leadership, according to private surveys, amid widespread economic devastation and social deprivation.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has described Venezuela’s crisis as a “disgrace.”

The US treasury has put eight members of the socialist country’s Supreme Court on a financial blacklist as punishment for undermining the country’s democratically elected congress by assuming its powers in late March.

A senior official in Washington said further action would be taken if there was no improvement in Venezuela following weeks of worsening instability.

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