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Amnesty Accuses Maduro Government of Executing Thousands

FILE - Cardboard crosses with the names of opposition supporters killed during demonstrations are seen on a fence during a strike called to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, July 20, 2017.

An international human rights watchdog group has accused Nicolas Maduro's government of committing some of the worst human rights violations in Venezuela's history.

In a report released Thursday, Amnesty International said the number of killings in the South American country in recent years was "greater than those in many countries at war."

The report highlighted the violence perpetrated by security officials during anti-crime operations in poor neighborhoods.

"State officials, adopting military methods, use force in an abusive and excessive manner, in some cases intentionally killing during security operations," Amnesty said in a statement.

The report said there were 8,292 extrajudicial executions carried out between 2015 and 2017.

"In cases documented by Amnesty, victims were unarmed. Autopsies revealed bullet wounds in the neck, throat, head. They were killed while on their knees or lying down," said Esteban Beltran, director of Amnesty International Spain.

It found 22 percent of all homicides in 2016, or 4,667, were committed by security officials.

Last year, it found 95 percent of the homicide victims in the country were men, with 60 percent of those ranging in age from 12 to 29.

'Language of war'

"It is alarming that, instead of applying efficient public policies to protect people and reduce levels of insecurity, the Venezuelan authorities are using the language of war to try to legitimize the use of excessive force by police and military officials," Amnesty International Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas said.

"The government of President Maduro should guarantee the right to life, instead of taking the lives of the country's young people," she said.

The Venezuelan government did not immediately respond to the report.

The once-wealthy oil-producing nation has been in an economic crisis for five years. The turmoil has left many Venezuelans struggling to find food and medicine and has forced masses of people to flee to other South American countries.

According to the United Nations, more than 2 million Venezuelans have fled since 2014.

A Meganalisis poll published in The Miami Herald last month found more than 30 percent of Venezuelans said they ate only one meal a day. Nearly the same number reported eating "nothing or close to nothing" at least one day a week. Seventy-eight percent said they had trouble finding enough food.