Death toll in Venezuela's political unrest rises to at least 24

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 25, 2017 10:36 AM

CARACAS (Reuters) - A 23-year-old man was shot dead on Tuesday at a political demonstration in Venezuela's western state of Lara, authorities said, bringing to at least 24 the number of deaths in unrest this month.

Orlando Medina died immediately from a gunshot to the head on a street in El Tocuyo town in the early hours "during a protest," the state prosecutor's office said.

In a month of chaos in Venezuela since the opposition launched protests against socialist President Nicolas Maduro, 13 people have died in violence around demonstrations and another 11 in night-time lootings, according to authorities.

There have been unofficial reports of more deaths.

With near-daily demonstrations by both opponents and supporters of Maduro, there have been fatalities on both sides, as well as one National Guard sergeant killed during a protest.

The prosecutor's office did not specify the political allegiance of Tuesday's victim, though local media in Lara said he was an opposition sympathizer.

The ruling Socialist Party accuses foes of seeking a violent coup with U.S. connivance, while the opposition says Maduro is a dictator repressing peaceful protest.

The opposition's main demands are for elections, the release of jailed activists and autonomy for the opposition-led Congress. But protests are also fueled by a crippling economic crisis in the oil-exporting nation of 30 million people.

The unrest is Venezuela's worst since 2014, when 43 people died in months of mayhem sparked again by protests against Maduro, the 54-year-old successor to late leader Hugo Chavez.

Nearly 1,500 people have been arrested this month over the protests, with 801 still detained as of Tuesday, according to local rights group Penal Forum.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Diego Ore and Frances Kerry)