A 17-year-old boy and two men died in Venezuela after being shot during anti-government protests, prosecutors said Tuesday, bringing to 42 the number of people killed in six weeks of unrest.
The latest deaths in the current unrest – which erupted on April 1 when the opposition took to the streets in anger at what they saw as moves to strengthen President Nicolas Maduro's hold on power – make the situation almost as deadly as in 2014 when 43 people were killed in anti-government protests.
The government and the opposition have accused each other of sending armed groups to sow violence in the protests.
A policeman was arrested for his alleged role in the killing of 33-year-old Luis Alviarez, a taxi driver who was shot in the thorax, in Palmira, Tachira state, on Monday. Protesters on Tuesday set fire to a police station and police motorbikes in Palmira and opposition supporters continued to clash with riot security forces there.
Another person, whose name and age were not disclosed, died in protests in San Antonio, according to authorities.
Venezuelans have been vocal about their rage against the government on the streets and on social media, asking Maduro to quit and accusing him of being responsible for the deaths of citizens.
Termina de irte @nicolasmaduro y llevarte a tu narco corrupta cúpula!Ni un venezolano tenía que morir por tu enferma ambición de poder!
— Henrique Capriles R. (@hcapriles) May 16, 2017
Violence flared in various parts of the country on Monday as the opposition held sit-ins and roadblocks, trying to keep up momentum in its bid to remove the socialist government.
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks, angry about food shortages, a medical crisis and soaring inflation. Protesters are demanding elections, freedom for jailed activists, foreign aid to offset an economic crisis, and autonomy for the opposition-controlled legislature.
— Luis Almagro (@Almagro_OEA2015) May 16, 2017
Maduro blames the opposition for the country's crisis and the deaths, which have occurred on all sides, and mounting an "armed insurgency" against him with US backing.
He has vowed general elections will take place as scheduled in late 2018 but not before.
At least 90 people were arrested during Monday's unrest, according to a local rights group.
Resentment among middle class
The current wave of protests, which attracted hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on some days, has drawn greater support from the poor. This demographic backed late leader Hugo Chavez massively but have soured on Maduro, his successor, and suffered the most from four years of recession.
But the main protests have still been in middle-class areas.
Maduro, 54, who narrowly won the election in 2013 after Chavez's death, says he is the victim of an international right-wing conspiracy that has already brought down leftist governments in Brazil, Argentina and Peru in recent years.