11 People Killed In Venezuelan Protests

At least 11 people have been killed following riots and protests in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, Friday night. According to reports from the Public Ministry, the incident took place in El Valle, a neighbourhood bordering Caracas’s largest military base inside a local bakery where a group of looters were hit with an electrical current from an electrical fence. The El Valle incident comes out of two days of violent protests against President Nicolas Maduro where chaos has taken hold. Opposition leaders blame Maduro for the incident, stating if the government hadn’t repressed protesters with tear gas the violence wouldn’t have escalated so intensely. Maduro, however, points the blame at opposition parties for “inciting violence” stating armed groups were controlled by opposition parties trying to unseat him. Henrique Capriles, a former presidential candidate, rejected these claims denouncing them as “irresponsible declarations.”

Critics of Maduro are fearful he is trying to undermine Venezuela’s democracy. Protests have been commonplace in Venezuela over the last few weeks with calls for Maduro to step down. On March 30, the Supreme court backed Maduro by ruling it would take over opposition-led Congress’s legislative powers inciting fear and panic as opposition parties accused Maduro of attempting to try and strip the opposition of any power. Sandra Vanessa, one of the protesters told Al Jazeera, “I went out today, as many other Venezuelans, because we want to restore the constitutional order, we went out for the political prisoners, because we want the government to call for elections, we want the autonomy of the National Assembly.” Journalist Leonardo Bruzual reiterated this stating, “we are protesting, because we are in disagreement with the government of Nicolas Maduro. We are experiencing a serious crisis that is suffocating us.” On Wednesday, thousands showed up to protest Maduro. The protest quickly collapsed into violence when security forces fired tear gas at protesters. The protests disintegrated into a scene of chaos and violence which has left 20 dead this week alone. Maduro’s government blames opposition parties for the violence, Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami claimed on Friday the country was facing an “unconventional war” with opposition parties encouraging violence and working with criminal gangs in order to create chaos. Maduro has also claimed opposition parties are working with foreign entities such as the U.S. to undermine him.

Opposition leaders have encouraged more protests to take place on Saturday and Monday, with opposition figurehead Henrique Capriles refusing to back down. “I cannot just sit by and watch a government that is increasingly authoritarian. I feel it is my duty to stand up,” he told the Guardian. “I have given this fight the best years of my life, and I am not going to stop now.”