Death toll during Venezuela's anti-government protests rises to 29
Latest victim: Juan Pablo Pernalete, 20, hit in the head with tear gas canister
CARACAS – Venezuelan authorities claim at least 29 have died during the nationwide marches to protest President Nicolas Maduro's repressive administration. The protests erupted amid a shortage of food and medicines and a stratospheric inflation rate.
The latest victims were Juan Pablo Pernalete, 20, who died on Wednesday in Caracas, Christian Ochoa, 22, who was shot in Valencia, and Orlando Medina, 23, who was shot in Tocuyo. Eleven were electrocuted during a looting.
There were at least 437 wounded. Police Chief Robinson Antonio Navarro Acosta was shot in the leg, while patrolling Caracas' Guarataro neighborhood, authorities reported.
Protesters on Wednesday were trying for the seventh time this month to march peacefully to the office of the ombudsman in downtown Caracas. But national and local law enforcement agents and officers were once again blocking the roads.
Authorities have been firing tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and water cannons since April 1, a day after the Supreme Court took powers from the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Although three days later the Supreme Court reversed its decision, protesters have been demanding the release of Leopoldo Lopez and other leaders of Maduro's opposition.
"The constitutional order was broken and the people are demanding that it be restored," said Rosibel Torres, an attorney who was wearing a mask and swimming goggles. "We want general elections. We will remain in the streets for as long as it takes, because the other option is to live on our knees."
Masked students have been taking over the streets through the afternoons to push back. Some run around returning tear gas canisters and hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at authorities. Others set up fires and road obstacles.
"The repression has been strong, but we can't bend, especially for our youth who are giving their lives on the streets," Torres, 56, said.
Maduro, who succeeded the late Hugo Chavez in 2013, was responding with what critics have described as dictatorial repression.
According to the Venezuelan Penal Forum, a human rights group, about 1,500 were arrested during the protests this month and some 800 were still in custody of the Venezuelan government.
Armed militias known as "colectivos" continue to terrorize protesters, whom they have labeled as "right-winged terrorists." Maduro has asked the "colectivos" to defend the country from a foreign invasion and a coup. But protesters say the reality is Venezuelans are killing Venezuelans.
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