Venezuela crisis deepens as anti-government protests enter sixth week; death toll rises to 42

CARACAS – Three more Venezuelans died this week during another round of protests against the Nicoloas Maduro-led socialist government.

Two men, identified as 33-year-old Diego Hernandez and 18-year-old Luis Alviarez, died from bullet wounds amid the protests in the western state of Tachira on Monday.

A policeman was arrested for his alleged role in the killing of Hernandez, a taxi driver, shot in the thorax.

And on Tuesday, 17-year-old Yeison Mora succumbed to a bullet to the head received during a protest in the plains state of Barinas.

The death toll in six-week wave of anti-government unrest has risen to at least 42, according to the state prosecutor’s office. “A group of people arrived and started shooting, injuring the young person in the brain,” it said on the death of the unnamed teenager.

Monday’s “sit-in against the dictatorship” began peacefully, but later in the day, demonstrators clashed with soldiers and police, with buildings set afire, tear gas canisters lobbed back and forth.

State security officers unleashed a volley of tear gas and rubber bullets. Hundreds were injured across the country, including one young woman in Caracas.

Three officers were also shot in the central state of Carabobo. One was in critical condition after being shot in the head, authorities said.

In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of angry protesters staged violent demonstrations against food shortages, a medical crisis and soaring inflation.

Protesters are demanding elections, freedom for jailed activists, foreign aid to offset an economic crisis, and autonomy for the opposition-controlled legislature.

President Nicolas Maduro blames the opposition for the country’s crisis and the deaths, which have occurred on all sides. He accuses his opponents of trying to oust him in a coup with the backing of Washington.

The Chavez’s successor has vowed to resolve his nation’s crisis by convening a special assembly to rewrite the nation’s constitution, while the opposition is demanding that a new presidential election be held immediately.

At least 90 people were arrested during Monday’s unrest, according to a local rights group.

International pressure on the troubled South American nation is also increasing, with the Organization of American States voting Monday to hold a rare foreign ministers’ meeting later this month to discuss the crisis. The Washington-based group only convenes such meetings to address most urgent affairs.

President Donald Trump, in a phone call with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, underscored that the United States will work together with Peru in seeking to improve democratic institutions and help the people of Venezuela.