CARACAS – About 100 people, who had been participating in anti-Maduro protests, surrounded a man, doused him in gasoline and set him alight in Plaza Altamira in east Caracas at the weekend, witnesses said.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has accused opposition protesters of setting alight the government supporter in Caracas on the 50th day of protests.
Showing a video of the incident on state TV, Maduro identified the man as Orlando Figuera, 21, saying he was being treated in hospital for severe burns.
Images from the scene showed him running near-naked with flames on his back.
“Burning a person because he seems a Chavista is a hate crime and a crime against humanity,” Maduro said on his weekly TV program, also showing another video of someone being beaten up, as well as images of protesters throwing Molotov cocktails.
Figuera suffered burns to 80% of his body after he was engulfed in flames. Officials said he was also stabbed in Saturday’s protests.
Witnesses said the crowd had accused the man of being a thief.
On the same day, an opposition activist was shot dead, bringing the total number killed in recent protests to 48. Edy Alejandro Teran Aguilar died from a gunshot wound to the chest, while two others were wounded.
The attorney general’s office said gunmen allegedly opened fire on the demonstrators in the western city of Valera.
Protesters demanding President Maduro step down and hold elections took to the streets across the country on Saturday to mark the 50th day of the increasingly violent demonstrations which have overwhelmed the country in recent weeks.
Speaking on his weekly TV programme, Mr Maduro described it as “a hate crime and a crime against humanity”.
Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas tweeted it was “growing insanity”.
“A human being is set on fire at a ‘peaceful demonstration’ by the opposition in Caracas,” he wrote, posting a video of the incident.
Protests have been taking place across Venezuela for seven weeks, as anger towards Mr Maduro and his government rises.
Venezuela’s opposition says Maduro has become a dictator, wrecked the Opec nation’s economy, caused desperation by thwarting an electoral exit to the political crisis, and unleashed repression and torture on protesters.
“Maduro, Murderer!” can be seen daubed on roads and walls in many parts of Caracas.
Despite having the world’s largest known oil reserves, Venezuela is facing a shortage of many basic items, including food and medicines. Its economy has collapsed, with inflation expected to top 700% this year, and crime is rampant.
The opposition is calling for early elections and the release of opposition politicians jailed in recent years, saying the socialist governments of Mr Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, have mismanaged the economy since coming to power in 1999.
In six weeks of anti-Maduro unrest, at least 47 people have died, including supporters of both sides, some bystanders, and members of the security forces.
Both sides quickly publicise and condemn violence from the other side, while often underplaying wrongdoing within their own ranks.