Crowds of students clashed with riot police in the latest in a wave of unrest as the opposition vowed no respite in its drive to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

It was unclear whether the killing was directly linked to the protests, but it came amid high tension, as students pushed on with a wave of street rallies.
It was unclear whether the killing was directly linked to the protests, but it came amid high tension, as students pushed on with a wave of street rallies.

A student was shot dead at a meeting in Venezuela on Thursday, prosecutors said, amid raised tensions as crowds clashed with riot police in the latest in a wave of unrest.

The student leader was at a meeting in the northern state of Anzoategui when "one of those present approached him and shot him several times before fleeing on a motorbike," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

It did not say whether the killing was directly linked to the protests, but it came amid high tension, as students pushed on with a wave of street rallies.

"I don't know how long the protests are going to last," senior opposition leader Henrique Capriles said in an interview.

"If we were being violent, if we were not being democratic, we would already have toppled the government."

The opposition accuses Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro of trying to strengthen his grip on power and delay elections by launching moves to rewrite the constitution.

Attorney General Luisa Ortega told the Wall Street Journal that the government should ensure people's right to demonstrate freely, without arbitrary arrests.

"We can't demand peaceful and legal behaviour from citizens if the state takes decisions not in accordance with the law," the Journal quoted her as saying on Wednesday.

Riot police protect themselves with their shields after students at the Central University of Venezuela throw molotov cocktails at them during a protest in Caracas on May 4, 2017. (AFP)
Riot police protect themselves with their shields after students at the Central University of Venezuela throw molotov cocktails at them during a protest in Caracas on May 4, 2017. (AFP)

More than 30 people have been killed in just over a month of protests against Maduro, whose opponents blame him for food shortages in the oil-rich nation.

The prosecutors said a policeman died from a gunshot suffered during a protest on Wednesday in the western city of Carabobo.

That brought the death toll from the street unrest to 33, not including the student who was killed at the meeting in circumstances that remained unclear.

The opposition wants a vote on removing Maduro from office. But the president, elected in 2013, says the crisis is a US-backed capitalist conspiracy.

The opposition and government have accused each other of fomenting violence.

Despite the country's chaos, Maduro retains the military's public backing -- one thing that analysts say could yet tip the balance against him.

"Complex battle"

President Maduro on Wednesday launched procedures at the electoral council to elect a "constituent assembly" to draft a new constitution.

"This is the path of peace and reconciliation for Venezuela," he said on television on Thursday.

"It is a complex battle, but no one will take our homeland from us."

He said the constitutional reform body would not include political parties with seats in the opposition-controlled National Assembly, but representatives of social groups traditionally loyal to him.

Private polls indicate that more than 70 percent of those interviewed do not support Maduro.

Maduro's center-right opponents and some international powers said the move is an attempt to dodge local elections this year and a presidential poll set for late 2018.

Source: TRT World