Four more citizens have been killed in opposition-led street violence in Venezuela, bringing the death count to a total of six since the protests began nine days ago.
The victims are: Bryan Principal, 13, Miguel Ángel Colmenares, 36, Oliver Villa Camargo, 29, and Antonio Gruseny Canelon, 32.
Principal, Colmenarez, and Canelon were all killed in the western state of Lara, one of the focal points of the violence, while Camargo was shot dead in central Caracas.
According to reports, Principal was killed by opposition protestors who opened fire on the Ali Primera government housing project in Barquisimeto during a black-out on Tuesday night. He later died from his injuries in the hospital.
In statements released following the minor’s death, residents at Ali Primera explained that the housing project had been at the centre of an ongoing confrontation between pro-government supporters and opposition protesters throughout the day.
Earlier on, opposition supporters had allegedly tried to forcibly enter the government apartment block in a bid to release prisoners being held by the national guard inside. At around 7pm, residents from the two adjacent private apartment buildings tried to close the street with burning tires. Shots were fired from one of the private complexes when occupants from Ali Primera tried to remove the roadblocks. Principal was hit by two bullets while attempting to leave the scene with his mother, according to witnesses.
Ali Primera residents have since condemned the violence and criticized Lara opposition governor Henri Falcon for failing to send the local police to quell the unrest. They also accused local mayor Alfredo Ramos of collaborating with violent opposition protestors by providing them with trash from local government waste-disposal trucks to block the roads.
“Mr President. We want total JUSTICE for these acts, and we do not want what happened in our apartment block to go unpunished,” reads the residents’ statement.
In another incident also in Barquisimeto, Miguel Ángel Colmenares was shot in unclear circumstances by unidentified assailants on motorbikes near a local meeting centre for the leftist Great Patriotic Pole political alliance. His family say he was an opposition supporter but was not involved in any of the protests.
The Public Prosecutor’s office has dispatched two district attorneys to investigate the cases.
Meanwhile, opposition protestor Antonio Gruseny Canelon, 32, died from gunshot wounds in the early hours of April 13. The opposition demonstrator was reportedly shot during a protest in Cabudare, Lara, on April 11 and was promptly taken to the hospital. To date, no one has been charged with Canelon shooting, although opposition leaders, including the leader of far-right party Vente Venezuela, Maria Corina Machado, and Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, promptly took to Twitter, blaming the government for his death.
“Another young person killed! Another family in mourning because of the blind ambition of the Madurista narco-corrupt leadership! All solidarity to our people in Lara,” tweeted Capriles.
Otro joven asesinado!Otra familia enlutada x ambición ciega de narco corrupta cúpula madurista!Toda la solidaridad a nuestra gente en Lara! https://t.co/oFNbEP8A2G
— Henrique Capriles R. (@hcapriles) April 13, 2017
In Caracas, a fourth person was also shot dead in the afternoon of April 13, allegedly by opposition protestors. Venezuelan news agencies report that Oliver Villa Camargo was driving through central Caracas with a friend when he attempted to cross a roadblock set up by opposition activists in El Paraiso.
According to a report by Venezuela’s El Universal, “when they passed the roadblock they were approached by two subjects traveling on a motorcycle and without a word they shot at the men, impacting in Villa Camargo’s face”.
Camargo was able to flee the scene, but died minutes later on Caracas’ principal Francisco Fajardo freeway.
Bystander Jairo Ortiz, 19, and protestor Daniel Queliz, 20, were killed earlier on in the week. A district attorney has been designated to investigate Queliz’s death, while a policeman has been indicted for killing Ortiz.
The violent protests began nine days ago as an off-shoot of demonstrations called by the Venezuelan opposition to protest against an alleged violation of the constitution by the Supreme Court.
Nonetheless, their demands have since morphed to include immediate presidential elections, which are not due to be held until 2018. Other opposition activists have said they will remain in the streets until the national government falls, sharing the hashtag #ElectionsNoLibertyYes on Twitter.
Similar protests led by opposition demonstrators known as the ‘guarimbas’ also erupted in 2014, leading to the deaths of 43 people. The victims were mostly state security personnel and passersby.