Thu, May 18, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Four killed in violent Venezuela protests

AP, CARACAS

Protesters prepare to fire a homemade missile during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Palmira, Venezuela, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

Business owners shuttered shops, a burned police station stood charred and a state officer in western Venezuela was under arrest on Tuesday following a spasm of violence that resulted in at least four deaths in anti-government protests.

An especially grisly 24 hours of turmoil coming after nearly two months of political unrest had nervous residents staying indoors in restive cities such as San Cristobal near the border with Colombia.

Authorities announced on Tuesday that four men ranging in age from 17 to 33 had died from gunshot wounds at separate protests over the preceding day.

Diego Hernandez, 33, and Luis Alviarez, 18, were killed in Tachira, while Yeison Mora Castillo, 17, died near a protest farther east in the state of Barinas on Monday. Diego Arellano, 31, died during surgery on Tuesday after being shot at a demonstration south of Caracas.

Friends and relatives of Arellano gathered outside the clinic where he died and sang the national anthem as his body was removed from the facility.

The nation’s chief prosecutor said it was charging a 27-year-old state police officer in Hernandez’s death, whose final moments were purportedly captured in a video circulating on social media.

The footage showed a bystander ripping open Hernandez’s blue T-shirt as he lay lifeless on the pavement, his eyes open and fixed, revealing a bloody wound underneath.

“They killed him,” someone screams in the video.

The weeks of protests were set off by the government’s move to nullify the opposition-controlled Congress in late March, but demonstrations have escalated into a vehicle for airing grievances against the government for triple-digit inflation, food shortages and a rise in crime.

The flare-up of violence outside Venezuela’s capital this week added to a grim and growing list of casualties from the unrest.

More than three dozen people have died, most of them young men shot at protests or killed during looting. Hundreds more have been injured in near-daily demonstrations by the opposition that frequently end with state security forces unleashing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets at protesters.

Arrests have been made in seven homicides. In four of those cases, state or national police officers have been charged.

Civilians were charged in three other cases, but no details released on their motives.

The opposition blames the bloodshed on state security forces using excessive force and on groups of armed, pro-government civilians known as colectivos.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says far-right extremists are working with criminal gangs to foment the violence.

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