A 20-year-old Venezuelan protester died on Friday, adding another fatality to the death toll of 37 people registered in the country’s month of anti-government demonstrations.
Hecder Lugo was shot in the head, according to authorities, during a fight between protestors and security forces in Valencia on Thursday.
Valencia Mayor Enzo Scarano confirmed Lugo’s death on Twitter, where he also announced that four others were too injured from Tuesday’s protest.
Lugo was shot in the head: Social media video shows the moment
A video posted on social media shows the moment when an injured Lugo fell to the ground, and as he laid there, a National Guard official approached him and shot him in the head. The state prosecutor’s office confirmed Lugo died after being shot in a protest.
Over 717 people have been injured since protests started in early April against President Nicolás Maduro and his regime, and 37 people have been killed, including bystanders, protesters and security officials. Hundreds of people have been arrested, and 152 still remain in jail, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Valencia, one of Venezuela’s biggest cities just two hours from Caracas, has been the epicenter of lootings and violent clashes this week.
Venezuela’s opposition says Maduro has become a dictator and wrecked the economy, as the country faces years of economic recession as well as widespread food and medicine scarce. Protests were sparked a month ago when the government attempted to strip down the power of the National Assembly, the only opposition-ruled power in Venezuela.
This week Maduro announced the installment of a constituent assembly, which will have the ability to write a new Constitution and to overrule any existing public power in Venezuela, including the National Assembly. Opposition leaders claim that the government will handpick a group of supporters to get away with rewriting the Constitution and to instate their dictatorship publicly.
Government officials call opposition demonstrators ‘terrorists’
The opposition has vowed to stay on the streets for as long as necessary, as leaders and supporters urge the government to call for presidential elections, which are scheduled for 2018. Lilian Tintori, an opposition activist and wife of political prisoner Leopoldo López, called for a march on Saturday. Opposition lawmakers briefly hanged a banner on Friday at the National Assembly that read “Maduro Dictator.”
Maduro says that the opposition is seeking a coup to overthrow the government and that the U.S. government is backing it.
“President Maduro has made a big call to national dialogue,” said Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez in a diplomat meeting on Friday. “They are not peaceful, the opposition leaders share big responsibility in these acts of extremism and vandalism.”
Opposition protests have started peacefully but escalated into violence when security forces block the protests and throw tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators. Masked youths fight them back with stones, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks.
Demonstrator was run over by a military tank on Wednesday
On Wednesday, during a clash between the National Guard and opposition masked protesters in Altamira, a neighborhood in Caracas, an armored tank ran over one of the protesters.
In the protest, masked youths were met by countless canisters of tear gas and responded by hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at the security forces. One of the Molotov cocktails crashed into the tank and sparked a fire atop of it, and the tank backed away from the crowd. However, as protesters surrounded two National Guard officials, the armored vehicle plowed into the crowd and ran over a young man.
He was identified as Pedro Michell Yaminne, a 22-year-old protester, who was rushed to a hospital and is currently in a delicate state. His mother told CNN that he suffered from multiple fractures and one of his lungs collapsed and is now breathing thanks to an artificial lung.
His mother said that Yaminne witnessed the fatal shooting of Bassil Da Costa in 2014, during a previous round of anti-government protests. Yaminne told his mother that at that time he vowed to continue the struggle, and hadn’t missed a single protest since they started in early April.
Polls show the ruling Socialist government would severely lose any popular vote due to the national discontent with Maduro’s regime. Maduro said opposition ranks include armed hoodlums, and activists accuse government-backed security officials of using excessive force, including firing tear gas canisters directly at people and allowing “colectivos,” gangs of pro-government armed civilians, to terrorize demonstrators.
Henrique Capriles, one of the most outspoken opposition leaders, said on Friday that 85 members of the National Guard in Caracas had been arrested for repressing opposition demonstrators, and he added that their relatives asked him to publicize the arrests.