Soldier shot in the head in Venezuelan unrest

Monday 17 March 2014 16.30
A show of force from the National Guard after the death toll from a month and a half of protests rose to 29
A show of force from the National Guard after the death toll from a month and a half of protests rose to 29

A National Guard captain has died after being shot in the head during a demonstration in Venezuela.

He was the 29th person to die in weeks of clashes between protesters and the security forces.

General Padrino Lopez, head of the armed forces' strategic operational command, said the captain was shot late yesterday at a street barricade set up by demonstrators in the central city of Maracay, in Aragua state.

"He was another victim of terrorist violence," Mr Lopez said on Twitter, calling for an end to the confrontations.

"Our armed forces don't repress peaceful protests, they protect them ... much more Venezuelan blood would've been shed, if it were not for the responsible actions of our National Guard."

For six weeks, students and hardline opposition leaders have been calling supporters onto the streets in protest at President Nicolas Maduro and his socialist government.

The demonstrators are demanding political change and an end to high inflation, shortages of basic foods and one of the worst rates of violent crime in the world.

The protests, however, show no signs of toppling Mr Maduro, a 51-year-old former bus driver who narrowly won an election in April 2013 to replace his late friend and mentor, Hugo Chavez.

The armed forces seem to be firmly behind Mr Maduro, and the numbers of protesters are far fewer than took to the streets a decade ago to oust Chavez, albeit briefly.

Opposition leaders, meanwhile, are deeply divided over the current confrontations.

During the daytime, thousands of opposition supporters have marched peacefully.

Then a masked hard core has been emerging in the evenings, especially in wealthier eastern Caracas, to fight running battles with riot police and the National Guard.

Keywords: venezuela