CARACAS – A young protester was shot dead amid continuation of demonstrations that brand Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro a dictator and demand elections.
Hecder Lugo was killed during fighting between demonstrators and security forces in Valencia on Thursday that also injured four others, the local opposition mayor, Enzo Scarano, said in a series of tweets.
The 20-year-old’s death has taken the death toll from a month of anti-government unrest to at least 37.
Another 717 people have been injured and 152 are still in jail from the hundreds rounded up in widespread unrest across the country, according to latest figures by the state prosecutor’s office.
On Saturday, thousands of women took over streets in major cities all around the South American country in an event the opposition billed as a “women’s march against repression.” Wearing the white shirts of the opponents of country’s increasingly embattled government, the women sang the national anthem and chanted, “Who are we? Venezuela! What do we want? Freedom!”
As they marched, local media carried a video showing people toppling a statue of the late President Hugo Chavez the day before in the western state of Zulia.
— JMP (@jesunym) May 5, 2017
Footage shows the statue, which depicts Chávez saluting and wearing a sash, being yanked down to cheers in a public plaza before it is bashed into a sidewalk and then the road as onlookers swear at the leftist, who died in 2013 from cancer.
The media reported that students destroyed the statue as they vented their anger with the food shortages, inflation and spiraling crime in the country.
Several young men could be seen bashing the statue that depicted the socialist hero standing in a saluting pose, as onlookers hurled insults at the late president.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez denounced the Friday’s protest movement, and said opposition “terrorists” were attempting a kind of nonconventional warfare.
Venezuela’s opposition, which now enjoys majority support after being in the shadow of the ruling Socialist party since Chávez’s 1998 election win, says his successor, Maduro, has become a dictator and wrecked the economy.
President Maduro says they are seeking a violent coup with U.S. support and is setting up a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution and possibly replace the existing legislature.
“They are not peaceful. The opposition leaders share big responsibility in these acts of extremism and vandalism,” Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez told diplomats at a meeting on Friday.
In a call with the president of Peru, U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the deteriorating situation in Venezuela. A statement from the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary said Trump underscored to President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski that “the United States will work together with Peru in seeking to improve democratic institutions and help the people of Venezuela.”
The opposition is boycotting Maduro’s constituent assembly process. Having failed to trigger a referendum on his rule last year, the opposition is calling for delayed elections of state governors to be held as soon as possible, and for the next presidential election, slated for 2018, to be brought forward.