Local beauty queen among six killed in Venezuelan anti-government violence
A 22-year-old student from the central city of Valencia in Venezuela died on Wednesday after being shot in the head during an anti-government demonstration, her family said.
Genesis Carmona, who was studying tourism and was also a local beauty queen, was shot during a demonstration on Tuesday.
She is one of six victims of the political unrest that has gripped the South American country since imprisoned protest leader Leopoldo Lopez urged supporters to keep fighting for the departure of the socialist government of President Nicolas Naduro.
Security forces and protesters fought throughout Venezuela on Thursday in streets blocked by burning barricades .
On Wednesday night, the capital Caracas saw one of the worst bouts of violence since the protests began.
Around a square in the wealthier east of the city, security forces fired teargas and bullets, chasing youths who hurled petrol bombs and blocked roads with burning piles of trash.
There were also sustained clashes in the western Andean states of Tachira and Merida.
The demonstrators, mainly students, blame the government for violent crime, high inflation, product shortages and alleged repression of opponents.
Death toll mounts
Alexis Martinez, a brother of a ruling Socialist Party legislator, was killed in the central city of Barquisimeto on Thursday. A local journalist said Martinez was shot in the chest while passing an opposition protest.
Three people were killed in Caracas after an opposition rally a week ago, and a fourth person died after being run over by a car during a demonstration in the coastal town of Carupano.
Scores more people have been arrested or injured in the most serious unrest since Maduro was narrowly elected in April 2013.
Tensions as opposition leader arrested
Tensions have risen in Venezuela since Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, turned himself in to troops on Tuesday after spearheading three weeks of often rowdy protests against Maduro’s government.
Lopez is being held in Caracas’ Ramo Verde military prison. His lawyer said he had been charged with arson and conspiracy, but the more serious charges of murder and terrorism charges had been dropped.
“We cannot underestimate those fascist groups whose boss is behind bars,” President Maduro said in a nationally televised speech late on Wednesday. “I’m not playing with democracy. I do not accept that they challenge the Venezuelan people and our Constitution.”
Maduro said the opposition are trying to create a crisis to topple his administration: “There is an international campaign to justify a foreign intervention in Venezuela.”
In a pre-recorded video that was to be released in the event he was jailed Lopez told his supporters: “Today more than ever, our cause has to be the exit of this government,” he said, sitting by his wife. “Let’s fight. I will be doing so.”
“Change depends on every one of us. Don’t give up!” Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori said via Twitter on Thursday.
Speaking in Mexico, US President Barack Obama criticised Maduro’s government for arresting protesters and urged it to focus on addressing the “legitimate grievances” of its people.