Teenager's death puts Venezuela protests in focus

Armando Canizales was an ambitious teenager who played the violin in Venezuela's Youth Orchestra and had just been accepted into medical school. He was shot dead during an anti-government protest in Caracas.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Opposition supporters block an avenue while rallying against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 15, 2017.

Thirty-nine people have been killed and hundreds have been injured since anti-government protests first broke out in Venezuela on April 1.

The country's capital, Caracas, has seen some of the largest demonstrations and the most clashes between protesters and police.

On May 3, 17-year-old Armando Canizales joined one such protest in Caracas and was shot dead. 

Armando was an ambitious teenager who played the violin in Venezuela's Youth Orchestra and had just been accepted into medical school.

“A young man who had all his life ahead of him,” said Gerardo Blyde, the mayor of the Baruta district of Caracas. “He was just fighting for a better country.”

TRT World's Anelise Borges spoke with Armando's family in Caracas.

Protests continue

Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro staged sit-ins and roadblocks across Venezuela on Monday to press for elections, sparking more unrest.

Armando is not the only one to die during the protests. The new unrest brought the death toll to at least 69 after six weeks of protests.

Demonstrators have been on the streets daily since early April to demand elections, freedom for jailed activists, foreign humanitarian aid to offset an economic crisis, and autonomy for the opposition-controlled legislature.

On Monday, thousands gathered from 7:00 am (1100 GMT) on highways in Caracas and elsewhere, chanting slogans, waving banners, playing cards in deck chairs, enjoying impromptu sports games and sharing food.

The opposition, which commands majority support after years in the shadow of the ruling socialists, is more united than during the last wave of anti-Maduro protests in 2014.

But it has been unable to stop violence in its ranks, with youths vandalising property and starting fires when security forces block marches with tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons.

Claims of media bias

The current wave of protests, which has attracted hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on some days, has drawn greater support from the poor, who 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 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.

Government supporters say international media coverage of Venezuela has been biased, emphasising government repression and minimising opposition violence.

TRTWorld and agencies