Venezuela: 20 killed during anti-Maduro protests in Caracas

CARACAS – At least 12 people have been killed in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, bringing to 20 the number of those killed in three weeks of political turmoil in the Latin American state.

The latest fatalities occurred in various parts of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, with the government prosecutor’s office saying that 11 of the victims were from the southwestern district of El Valle and one from the eastern neighborhood of Petare.

Eight of the victims were reportedly electrocuted while trying to loot a bakery and the rest had been shot.

The Friday’s clashes came shortly after the government of President Nicolas Maduro accused the opposition of hiring armed gangs to attack a maternity hospital with 54 children in El Valle a day earlier. The opposition rejected the allegation.

The move fueled anger among anti-Maduro protesters, leading to mass rallies held in and around Caracas despite heavy security presence.

There were reports of police using tear gas to disperse protesters in the densely-populated southwestern district.

Anti-government demonstrations intensified in Venezuela on April 1, after the Supreme Court decided to strip Congress of its powers.

The court later withdrew the move but protesters pushed ahead with calls on Maduro to leave office.

The embattled president is blamed for Venezuela’s economic woes, while the opposition also censures the 54-year-old leader for what it calls his lack of tolerance for dissent.

Acute shortages of foodstuffs and medicine have forced hundreds of thousands of people to march across the border into neighboring Colombia to buy necessities in recent months. This is while Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves.

Maduro says the Western-backed opposition has hugely capitalized on the global slump in oil prices to try to remove him from office.

Last year, the opposition launched an abortive attempt to force Maduro out of office by seeking to hold a recall referendum.