December 21, 2014
Venezuela death toll rises as soldier is shot in head
A Venezuela National Guard captain died today after being shot in the head during a demonstration, the military said, the 29th fatality in six weeks of clashes between protesters and security forces.
General Padrino Lopez, head of the armed forces' strategic operational command, said the captain was shot late last night at a street barricade set up by demonstrators in the central city of Maracay, in Aragua state.
"He was another victim of terrorist violence," 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 have been shed if it were not for the responsible actions of our National Guard."
Since early February, students and hardline opposition leaders have been calling supporters onto the streets to protest against 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 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 Maduro, and the protesters are far fewer than those who 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.