Venezuela anti-government protests this Wednesday left several deaths, dozens of injured and over 270 arrests. The Penal Forum of Venezuela confirmed two deaths although the number could be as high as six, as other people have been reported deceased in social media.

The march, which opposition leaders called “the mother of all rallies,” took place in several states of Venezuela. Military securities brutally repressed people walking, throwing thousands of tear bombs and pellets at them, while motorized gangs of government supporters opened fire on protesters, leaving several injured. Most citizens were repressed by the National Bolivarian Guard, the state’s armed military forces.

Venezuela Protests
Protesters react to a helicopter trying to reach the ombudsman in Caracas. Image credit: EFE/Cristian Hernandez.

Venezuela’s opposition protests leave several deaths across the country

Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s dictator president, also summoned a rally of government supporters, who assembled in the center of Caracas. The president has said that beneath a peaceful façade, allegedly encouraged by the United States, the protests are nothing but opposition efforts to foment a coup to end socialism in Venezuela. Opposition leaders and civilians have widely denounced that Maduro has become a dictator and accused his government of using armed civilians to spread violence and fear.

The protests were sparked weeks ago when the pro-government judges from the Supreme Court issued a ruling to dissolve the National Assembly, Venezuela’s Congress, which is controlled by opposition leaders. The actions from the Supreme Court were quickly overturned following a national and international outcry. However, Venezuela’s opposition has summoned many protests, asking for an end to the 18-year-old socialist government and calling for elections.

Venezuela Protests
Protesters gathered at one of Caracas’ main highways. Image credit: EFE/Cristian Hernandez.

Henrique Capriles Radonski, the major opposition leader in Caracas, called for another protest on Thursday in a news conference after the protests were repressed.

“Same place, same time,” said Capriles. “If we were millions today, tomorrow we’ll be more.”

Carlos Moreno, an 18-year-old student, was leaving his home to play soccer in Caracas when armed government supporters, dubbed “colectivos,” opened fire against a nearby opposition concentration and according to witnesses, Moreno was shot in the head. Three security officials confirmed he died later in a clinic after undergoing surgery.

Paola Ramirez, a university student from San Cristobal, a city near the Colombian border, was also shot by armed government supporters when she and her boyfriend were running away from the gang. A video posted on social media shows how Ramirez was walking, and a government supporter in a motorcycle shot her from the back, instantly killing the girl.

“We were on a motorbike, and they were following us, shooting,” said her boyfriend, according to Reuters. “I left her on a block where she was going to find her sister, and I went to hide the bike. I heard shots and when I arrived, she was on the ground. I tried to protect her as much as I could,” added the boyfriend, crying beside her dead body.

The public prosecutor office said it is investigating both cases. Other videos shared in social media showed other injured protesters, as well as photos of other deceased people. However, the government hasn’t confirmed the other deaths at the moment. The opposition blamed both deaths to “colectivos,” which have opened fire on protestors in every protest conducted on these past weeks. The “colectivos” call themselves community groups while the opposition accuses them of being paramilitary supporters of the Socialist Party.

Cabello: ‘We don’t care what other countries and the media says’

The opposition marched to demand early elections, the release of political prisoners, and humanitarian aid. The protesters gathered at dozens of neighborhoods around Caracas, and attempted to march to the office of the state ombudsman, but were blocked by military forces as in previous attempts. Young protesters threw rocks at the National Guard and sought to throw dozens of tear gas canisters back to the militaries.

Some protesters in Las Mercedes neighborhood even had to cross the Guaire River, a contaminated narrow river in Caracas, to escape from the many bombs that the National Guard threw at them. It has been reported that tear gas canisters used by the military in last week’s protests allegedly have been expired for years, which may cause serious health adverse effects on people.

Venezuela Protests
Maduro has compared these weeks’ events to the 2002 coup against Hugo Chávez, the deceased president of Venezuela who imposed the socialist regime 18 years ago. He appeared on Wednesday afternoon on national television saying that the corrupt and interventionist right-wing had been defeated. Image credit: EFE/Cristian Hernandez.

Diosdado Cabello, a pro-government congressman, said in a conference aired by state-run channel this Wednesday night that if the opposition keeps attempting to perform a coup on the government, the government will take “irreversible” measures to remain in power, which could mean that they’d admit a dictatorship.

“We don’t care what other countries say, we don’t care what the media says,” added Cabello. “We only care what the people say.”

Source: Reuters