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Two Killed as Protests Spread in Venezuela | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An injured demonstrator is helped by others during a rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela April 10, 2017. (Reuters)

Two people were killed during the ongoing unrest in Venezuela as groups in Caracas’ traditionally pro-government hillside slums and low-income neighborhoods took to the streets.

Venezuelans in poor areas blocked streets and lit fires during scattered protests across the country on Tuesday night amid growing unrest in the crippling economic crisis.

President Nicolas Maduro foes were galvanized by footage of a crowd in the south-eastern Bolivar state heckling and throwing objects at the closely-protected leader during a rally on Tuesday, before state television cut off the broadcast.

In the western Lara state, two people, aged 13 and 36, were killed the state prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Lara’s opposition governor Henri Falcon blamed violence on “infiltrators” and “delinquents” who roamed on motorcycles after an energy blackout.

Opposition lawmaker Alfonso Marquina identified the teenage victim as Brayan Principal and said he was killed during unrest in the western city of Barquisimeto on Tuesday night.

The opposition says Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader who took office four years ago, has morphed into a dictator after a Supreme Court decision in late March to assume the functions of the opposition-led congress.

The court quickly overturned the most controversial part of its decision, but the move breathed new life into the fractured opposition movement.

Two young men had already been killed in protests during the last week, according to authorities. Many are bracing for further violence in a country that is racked by crime and has one of the world’s highest murder rates.

No major protests were announced for Wednesday, but opposition leaders called for huge rallies on April 19. That will be the next big showdown in an increasingly tense crisis that has raised international concerns for stability in Venezuela.

The capital appeared calm on Wednesday, although some roads were charred and littered with broken glass.

Government officials did not provide an official account of the events, and the Information Ministry did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Maduro’s adversaries are demanding the government call delayed state elections, which polls suggest would not go well for the ruling Socialists. They also want an early presidential vote after authorities quashed a recall referendum against Maduro last year.

A ban on opposition leader Henrique Capriles from holding office for 15 years drew broad criticism as he was seen as the opposition’s best presidential hope.

Those moves have also raised international condemnation including from the United States and the European Union.

The strongest criticism has come from the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro. He has echoed the opposition’s claim that Maduro has installed a dictatorship.

Venezuelans have been suffering food and medicine shortages for months, leading many to skip meals or go without crucial treatment.

Amid what the opposition coalition says is a crackdown on dissent, some 71 people were arrested on Tuesday, according to rights group Penal Forum. In total, 364 people were arrested between April 4-12 during the most sustained protests since 2014, with 183 people still behind bars, the group added.

A group of young men and teenagers were arrested for throwing “sharp objects” against Maduro’s vehicle on Tuesday night, according to a report by a local National Guard division seen by Reuters. Two sources told Reuters the protesters were hurling stones.