Sun, Apr 23, 2017 - Page 4 News List

At least 12 killed during night of riots in Caracas

DESPERATE SCENES:In videos posted on social media, people screamed as gunshots were fired and protesters threw stones and other objects at soldiers

NY Times News Service, CARACAS

People look for food outside a looted supermarket in Caracas on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

At least a dozen people were killed as the streets of Caracas erupted into a night of riots, looting and clashes between government opponents and the Venezuelan National Guard late on Thursday and early on Friday, with anger from two days of pro-democracy demonstrations spilling into unrest in working-class and poor neighborhoods.

The Venezuelan Attorney General’s office said 11 people had died of electrocution and gunshot wounds “in acts of violence” in El Valle, a neighborhood of mixed loyalties, where armored vehicles struggled to contain crowds of looters.

In Petare, a working-class section in eastern Caracas, a protester was shot dead at the entrance to the city’s largest barrio, district Mayor Carlos Ocariz said.

Throughout the night, the sounds of banging pots and pans reverberated throughout the capital, a traditional form of protest known as the cacerolazo, which has taken on greater significance as the country struggles with shortages of food.

El Valle resident Liang-ming Mora, 43, described watching from the window of her high-rise apartment as her neighbors threw objects at national guardsmen and residents of a nearby area descended onto the streets, burning tires and looting stores.

The crowd moved through the neighborhood, destroying a large supermarket, a liquor store and other businesses, she said.

“They wanted to loot the bakery, too,” Mora said, but added that some people shouted: “No, not the bakery, no!” — apparently sparing one of the few places that could still supply the neighborhood with bread.

The clashes are a challenge to Venezuela’s opposition politicians, who have been trying to channel resentment over Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s growing power into a peaceful protest movement.

Many thousands of people gathered on Wednesday and Thursday, flooding the capital and parts of other cities, to demand that elections be scheduled.

The government has responded by trying to repress the protests with rubber bullets and tear gas. Making matters worse, bitterness against the government has been boiling over as the country struggles with severe shortages of food and medicine, forcing Venezuelans to wait in lines for hours for basics such as cornmeal.

The anger was apparent into the early hours of Friday. In videos posted on social media, people screamed as gunshots were fired into dark streets and looters broke store windows.

Protesters were captured on videos in cat-and-mouse games, throwing stones and other objects at soldiers. Fires burned in the streets.

At one point during the night, clashes became so heavy that a nearby children’s hospital was evacuated after a ward filled with tear gas.

The government said security forces were responding to an attack on the hospital by opposition protesters.

El Valle resident Mary Carmen Laguna Andrade, 23, said she watched as looters prowled the streets into the early hours of the morning.

“They passed my house with food, liquor bottles, shopping carts, computers and even a motorcycle they had stolen,” she said.

Some residents took to the streets to support the government.

A crowd gathered in Fuerte Tiuna, a military base that is also home to large public housing complexes built by the government, chanting in defense of the country’s socialist revolution.

“Neighbors, listen, join the struggle,” chanted the crowd, which was not interrupted by the security forces.

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