Venezuela’s opposition vowed fresh huge protests on Thursday, upping the ante in its bid to oust unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro a day after deadly clashes rocked the country.
A 17-year-old boy and a 23-year-old woman died after being shot Wednesday during what the opposition called the “mother of all marches,” and a soldier outside Caracas was said to have been killed.
The deaths mean eight people have now been killed during protests in Venezuela this month.
Riot police fired tear gas to force back stone-throwing demonstrators as hundreds of thousands of people fed up with food shortages and demanding elections joined protest marches in Caracas and several other cities.
Thousands of Maduro’s supporters held a counter-rally in central Caracas.
Maduro says that beneath a peaceful facade, the protests are little more than opposition efforts to foment a coup to end socialism in Venezuela. The opposition says Maduro has morphed into a dictator and accuses him of letting state forces and gangs of armed thugs violently repress demonstrators as he resists opposition pressure for him to quit.
Some disturbances continued into the night, with reports of looted bakeries, supermarkets and food centers in western Caracas.
Despite Wednesday’s deadly violence, his opponents displayed their determination to ratchet up the pressure by calling for renewed protests on Thursday.
“Today there were millions of us,” senior opposition leader Henrique Capriles told a news conference late Wednesday.
“Tomorrow even more of us have to come out,” he said, adding “same place, same time.”
The 17-year-old was shot by gunmen on motorbikes who also threw tear gas canisters into a crowd of protesters, Amadeo Leiva, head of the Clinicas Caracas Hospital which treated him, told AFP.
The 23-year-old woman, Paola Ramirez, died after being shot in the head in the western city of San Cristobal, the state prosecution service said later in a statement.
A pro-government politician and reservist, Diosdado Cabello, said on his television show that anti-Maduro activists had also “murdered” a soldier in San Antonio de los Altos, a town just south of Caracas, late Wednesday.
Prosecutors confirmed the death.
Authorities had previously reported five other people killed, including a boy of 13, in protests around the country earlier this month.