CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Students and opposition leaders are pressuring Venezuela to roll back a new regulation authorizing police to fire on protesters following the death of a 14-year-old boy at the hands of a police officer.
The resolution drew criticism when it was implemented in January, but the debate heated up this week after a police officer killed the teenager at an anti-government protest in the restive western town of San Cristobal.
Students on Friday began gathering signatures to ask the socialist South American government to repeal the regulation that allows the use of deadly force to control protests. Professors, opposition politicians and human rights groups held a news conference on Thursday to condemn the new rule.
The boy, Kluiverth Roa, was shot in the head Tuesday by a 23-year-old officer who is expected to be prosecuted in connection in the killing. Officials say he used plastic ammunition, but the boy's family believes live rounds were used. The teen was the first person to die during a protest since the adoption of the regulation, known as resolution 8610.
President Nicolas Maduro immediately went on the defensive, reiterating in a televised address hours after the killing that "armed repression is not allowed in Venezuela."
The governor of Tachira, where San Cristobal is located, defended the resolution on Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.
"Decree 8610 presents the use of weapons as a last resort, and requires the written permission of the defense minister," said Gov. Jose Vielma Mora, a member of Maduro's party. "What's happening is that the government hasn't explained it well."
Friday also marks the anniversary of a convulsion of violence in Caracas known as the "Caracazo" that has shaped the nation's thinking about the government use of force. In 1989, police fired indiscriminately on Venezuelans who took to the streets to protest austerity measures, killing hundreds.
AP reporter Jacobo Garcia contributed to this report from San Cristobal, Venezuela.
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