Wed, Mar 19, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela guard dies of shot in head

OPPOSING FORCES:Authorities have arrested a ‘Chinese mercenary’ near where the National Guard captain was killed, and allegedly found an ‘arsenal’ in his home

Reuters, CARACAS

A Venezuela National Guard captain died on Monday after being shot in the head during a demonstration, the military said, the 29th fatality in six weeks of clashes between protesters and security forces.

General Padrino Lopez, head of the armed forces’ strategic operational command, said the captain was shot late on Sunday at a street barricade set up by demonstrators in the central city of Maracay in Aragua State.

“He was another victim of terrorist violence,” Lopez said on Twitter, calling for an end to the confrontations. “Our armed forces don’t repress peaceful protests, they protect them.”

Since early last month, students and opposition leaders have been calling supporters to the streets to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his government.

The demonstrators are demanding political change and an end to high inflation, shortages of basic foods and one of the worst rates of violent crime in the world. However, the protests show no signs of toppling Maduro.

Aragua Governor Tareck El Aissami said authorities arrested a “Chinese mercenary” near where the National Guard captain was killed.

Aissami said an “arsenal” was found in the man’s home, and showed video of hundreds of rounds of different calibers.

He gave the man’s Venezuelan identity card number, but did not elaborate further.

The government has often talked of alleged assassination plans, but rarely provides many details.

In the western border state of Tachira, which has been hardest hit by the violence, residents rebuilt some barricades overnight on streets that the authorities had cleared.

In Puerto Ordaz, in the south of the country, witnesses said riot police clashed with hundreds of students.

At least two government-owned vehicles were burnt by protesters.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered the opposition mayors of four municipalities to remove street barricades set up by demonstrators. It issued a similar order against two opposition-run municipalities in eastern Caracas last week. It also summoned the opposition mayor of a municipality in Carabobo State to explain his “presumed failure” to comply with another order to remove barriers from roads.

The opposition Popular Will party said it was planning a march in Caracas yesterday to mark a month since its leader, Leopoldo Lopez, handed himself in to face charges of fomenting unrest after helping start the demonstrations.

The protesters are far fewer than those who took to the streets a decade ago to oust former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, albeit briefly. Opposition leaders are deeply divided over the current confrontations.

During the daytime, thousands of opposition supporters have marched peacefully. Then a masked hard core has been emerging in the evenings, especially in wealthier eastern Caracas, to fight running battles with riot police and the National Guard.

Supporters of both political camps, and several members of the security forces, have been killed. Hundreds of people have been injured, and more than 1,500 have been arrested.

About 100 people remain behind bars, including 21 security officials accused of crimes ranging from brutality to homicide.

Air Canada on Monday said it was suspending flights to Caracas until further notice because of the unrest, saying it could not ensure the safety of its operation.

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