Politics

Political unrest in Venezuela claims lives

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Demonstrators rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, April 13, 2017.

Credit:

Marco Bello/Reuters

A fifth person died Thursday after being shot during protests against the Venezuelan government, officials said, as tension mounted in a political crisis driven by food shortages.

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The 32-year-old man died from a gunshot wound suffered during clashes on Tuesday night in the northwestern town of Cabudare, a spokesman for the public prosecution service who asked not to be named told AFP.

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro is fighting off efforts to oust him as Venezuela, once a booming oil exporting nation, struggles with shortages of food and medicine.

Dozens of people have been injured and more than 100 arrested since April 6, according to authorities.

Riot police in various cities have fired tear gas and water cannon at stone-throwing demonstrators.

Opposition lawmaker Alfonso Marquina also reported the man's death on Twitter, identifying him as Antonio Gruseny Calderon.

Marquina called him "another victim of the dictatorship."

"My solidarity and condolences for all his relatives and friends. This must not go unpunished," he wrote.

Boy killed

Marquina and officials earlier said a 13-year-old boy was shot dead in protests on Tuesday in the western city of Barquisimeto, in Lara state.

Marquina blamed that killing on so-called "colectivos," armed supporters of the government who the opposition says commit violence during demonstrations.

A 36-year-old man was killed the same night in Barquisimeto, prosecutors said.

Two 19-year-old students were shot by police in earlier unrest, one on April 6 and one on April 11, according to authorities.

Also on Thursday, opposition lawmaker Jose Manuel Olivares said police fired tear gas "point-blank" at demonstrators in the state of Vargas.

"If they think they will scare us that way they are wrong. We will stay in the street!" he wrote on Twitter.

Two other demonstrations took place in Caracas and one in the country's second city, Maracaibo, without incidents, according to media reports.

On Wednesday, scuffles broke out between government supporters and opponents during a Holy Week procession at the Santa Teresa church in central Caracas.

Protests

The next major organized rallies called by opposition leaders are set for Wednesday next week.

That is expected to be the next big showdown in an increasingly fraught crisis that has raised international concerns for Venezuela's stability.

The opposition is demanding the authorities set a date for postponed regional elections.

It is also furious over moves to limit the powers of the legislature and ban senior opposition leader Henrique Capriles from politics.

Those moves have raised international condemnation including from the United States and the European Union.

Maduro has resisted opposition efforts to hold a referendum on removing him, vowing to continue the "socialist revolution" launched by his late predecessor Hugo Chavez.

Maduro says the economic crisis is the result of what he calls a US-backed capitalist conspiracy.