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Several more killed in Venezuela protests

David Martin AP, AFP, Reuters
May 17, 2017

At least four people have died in the latest protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Forty-two people are now believed to have died in six weeks of political unrest.

Venezuela Erneut Proteste gegen die Regierung
Image: Reuters/C. Garcia Rawlins

Venezuela's embattled government announced Tuesday that at least four more men, aged between 17 and 33 years old, have died of gunshot wounds.

A state police officer was detained in connection with the death of the 33-year-old in the western state of Tachira. Video of the man's final moments had circulated on social media in Venezuela. An 18-year-old was also shot dead in the state.

Tuesday's youngest victim, a 17-year-old boy, was shot in the head at a protest in the central state of Barinas on Monday and died the following day. Reporting on the teenager's death, the state prosecutor's office said that "a group of people arrived and started shooting, injuring the young person in the brain."

The fourth victim, aged 31, died during surgery on Tuesday after being shot during a demonstration just south of the capital, Caracas.

Violence flared up on Tuesday after opposition supporters held their latest series of sit-ins and roadblocks across the country in a bid to oust the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Political unrest in Venezuela erupted on April 1 as government opposition groups responded angrily to a Supreme Court decision to strip the legislative branch of its power. Maduro's detractors saw the decision as a blatant power grab by the president and his allies.

Maduro later reversed the decision amid increasing unrest, but protests have continued with demands for fresh elections in part due to complaints about Venezuela's desperate economic situation.

Violent flare-ups

Police have sought to quell many of the demonstrations by firing tear gas, water cannons or rubber bullets into the crowds, while a number of protestors have responded by hurling rocks or Molotov cocktails.

 After six weeks of unrest, at least 42 people have been killed, most whom have been young men shot at protests or killed during looting. Hundreds more have been injured.

Arrests have been made in seven homicide cases, four of which were perpetrated by state or national police officers. The opposition has pinned the blame for the increasing bloodshed on the state's security services and armed pro-government factions known as "colectivos." Maduro, meanwhile, has accused the opposition of working with criminal gangs to incite violence.

Outside responses

The United Nations Security Council is due to meet Wednesday to discuss the escalating violence in Venezuela, at the request of the US. Wednesday's talks will mark the first instance that body has discussed the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Organization of American States voted this week to convene a delegation of foreign ministers to discuss the crisis.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the group's secretary, Luis Almagro, called on the Maduro government to hold early elections. He also singled out Venezuela's national guard, Antonio Jose Benavides Torres, and Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, writing that the two men "lead the two institutions charged with the use of force in Venezuela. In this sense, they are both responsible for every aggression, every shot and every death."

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