Venezuelan security forces fired scores of tear gas volleys and turned water cannons on rock-throwing protesters on a bridge in Caracas on Wednesday as the death toll from this month’s anti-government unrest hit at least 27.
The state prosecutor’s office said 22-year-old Christian Ochoa became the latest fatality, dying on Tuesday night after receiving various gunshot wounds at a protest in Valencia city.
The wave of protests since early April against socialist President Nicolas Maduro have sparked Venezuela’s worst violence since 2014. Demonstrators want elections to end the socialists’ two-decade rule, but the South American nation’s brutal economic crisis is also fueling anger.
“I want everything to end: the hunger, the murders, the corruption, all the ills we are suffering. We have to stay in the street until there is change. We are the majority,” said student Ricardo Ropero, 20, at a march in Caracas.
Red-shirted supporters of Maduro, the 54-year-old former bus driver who succeeded Hugo Chavez in 2013, also rallied on the streets of the capital, punching their fists in the air and denouncing opposition “terrorists.”
Maduro says his foes are seeking a violent coup, with U.S. connivance, like a short-lived 2002 putsch against Chavez.
Amid another day of nationwide opposition rallies, the worst trouble in Caracas on Wednesday occurred when National Guard troops and police blocked off a highway where several thousands demonstrators were marching downtown.
(Additional reporting by Diego Ore and Girish Gupta; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Tom Brown — Image credit Reuters, Carlos Garcia Rawlins and Marco Bello)