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Teen Killed in Venezuela Protests; Death Toll Now at 100

  • VOA News

Government supporters confront anti-government protesters in Caracas, Venezuela, July 20, 2017.

Months of protests against Venezuela’s socialist government have led to the deaths of 100 people, after a 15 year-old boy was killed in skirmishes with police Thursday, authorities said.

The teenager was killed during a protest Thursday in the western Venezuelan state of Zulia, as opposition protesters engaged in a 24-hour nationwide strike.

Another man died Thursday during anti-government demonstrations just outside Caracas after being shot four times. Authorities previously announced the deaths of two other men during demonstrations related to the strike.

In cities across Venezuela Thursday tree limbs, wires, trash and furniture were transformed into roadblocks as Venezuelans heeded the opposition call to strike against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Protesters clashed with police in some areas. Groups of masked young men set fire to a handful of blockades and hurled stones at riot police, who fired back tear gas.

Opposition demonstrators also set a police booth on fire. There were several arrests. Stones were thrown at the headquarters of VTV state television.

In Caracas, astride a motorcycle wearing a black helmet, Luis Carmona told VOA he was not going to be swayed by Maduro's overtures.

"What we have here is hunger," he said, "and they (the government) think they are going to buy us off with that little bag of food? No sir. We are going to keep in the street every day."

A National Guard soldier points his weapon during clashes with anti-government demonstrations in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, July 20, 2017.
A National Guard soldier points his weapon during clashes with anti-government demonstrations in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, July 20, 2017.

Talk of 'failed state'

The announcement of the additional deaths comes after a senior Venezuelan diplomat at the United Nations says he has resigned, citing systematic persecution of civilians, “state terrorism'' and violations of the constitution by President Nicolas Maduro's government.

Speaking to the Associated Press news agency Thursday night, Isaias Medina said Venezuela “is a failed state,” adding that “this is a fugitive government and a complete dictatorship ... Maduro does not have the right to be in that office.''

Medina, an international lawyer specializing in environmental issues, who was a minister counselor at Venezuela's U.N. Mission, called on Maduro to “leave the office so that a new government can take place and do their job.''

Venezuela's U.N. ambassador says Medina was fired for acting dishonestly.

The 24-hour strike was meant as an expression of national disapproval of Maduro's plan to convene a constitutional assembly that would reshape the Venezuelan political system to consolidate the ruling party's power over the few institutions that remain outside its control. The opposition is boycotting a July 30 election to select members of the assembly.

Maduro said on national television that he'll press ahead with plans to rewrite the nation's constitution and said that hundreds of Venezuela's largest companies are functioning "at 100 percent'' despite the strike. The claim could not be immediately confirmed.

Violence during four months of anti-government unrest has taken about 100 lives, injured thousands, left hundreds in jail and further damaged an economy in its fourth year of a debilitating decline.

After the strike ends early Friday, the opposition-led parliament plans to name eight Supreme Court justices to replace the eight sanctioned by the United States for their role in trying to strip the National Assembly of its powers. It is unlikely the Maduro government will recognize the new justices.

But the opposition has also called on Venezuelans to take to the streets Saturday in a show of support for the new justices.

Alvaro Algarra, VOA Spanish Service correspondent in Caracas, contributed to this report.

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