Sun, May 07, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Looting ravages Venezuela as toll rises

DISSENT:While the president has the support of the military, an opposition leader said 85 mid-ranking army officers were detained for opposing crackdown actions

AFP, VALENCIA, Venezuela

A worker mops the floor between empty shelves at a supermarket in Valencia, Venezuela, on Friday, one day after anti-government protesters looted stores.

Photo: AFP

A young man died on Friday after he was injured in violence as looting broke out in impoverished Venezuelan cities, an official said, bringing the toll from unrest in more than a month of anti-government protests to at least 36.

Hecder Lugo Perez, 22, died after he was hit in the head by a projectile in the northwestern city of Valencia, sources at the Valles de San Diego medical clinic said.

Valencia Mayor Enzo Scarano confirmed his death.

Mass protests erupted on April 1 by demonstrators demanding elections to remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. They blame him for an economic crisis that has caused shortages of food, medicine and other basics.

Anger boiled over on Friday in the western municipality of Rosario de Perija, where young protesters burned, pulled down and then smashed a statue of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s late predecessor and mentor, according to video posted on social media showing the incident in a public square.

Looting broke out this week in cities such as Valencia, which looked like a disaster zone with bars on shop windows bent and windows broken.

“There was a crowd of them. They broke through the walls and took everything. They destroyed everything” before police came and fired tear gas to disperse the looters, 42-year-old bakery worker Nuvia Torrealba said. “My bosses have lost their home and we are out of a job. It was horrible.”

Residents were stockpiling food, water and fuel. At least 70 stores have been raided since Tuesday, the Valencia chamber of commerce said.

“They are taking advantage of the protests to go out and rob,” 64-year-old housewife Magaly Oliveros said in Valencia. “Today we are hungry, and tomorrow we will be hungrier still, because there is nothing.”

Maduro is resisting opposition demands for elections.

Each side accuses the other of using armed groups to sow violence in the demonstrations.

Maduro has the public backing of the military high command, which analysts have said is key to resisting the protests.

However, senior opposition leader and Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles on Friday said that 85 mid-ranking army officers have been detained for opposing moves to crack down on protesters.

He cited information he said was given by the officers’ families.

Maduro’s opponents called for women to march yesterday dressed in white, a traditional show of defiance against what they brand a repressive government.

“The regime is falling,” said Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, outside the prison near Caracas where she was demanding to see her husband. “It has no strength and is showing its worst side, using weapons because it is does not have right on its side.”

The president has launched moves to reform the constitution, further angering the opposition, which has said he is trying to dodge elections.

Maduro has said the economic crisis is a US-backed conspiracy to topple him and install a right-wing government.

“We will not let a fascist regime be set up here,” said Elias Jaua, the official appointed to lead a presidential commission on the constitutional reforms.

Capriles said the opposition would take no part in the constitutional discussions.

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