The deaths of Gisela Rubilar, 47, who was studying in the western
Venezuelan city of Merida, and of a protester shot in the border
state of Tachira, brought to at least 22 the number of fatalities in
five weeks of unrest.
"She was ambushed by extreme right-wing groups ... She was vilely
murdered with a shot in the eye," Alexis Ramirez, the governor of
Merida state, told reporters, blaming the killing of Rubilar on
unidentified demonstrators in the Andean city.
Students and militant opponents of President Nicolas Maduro have
been maintaining street barricades in various cities since last
month, demanding the president's resignation and solutions to
problems of rampant crime and economic shortages.
The barriers have become frequent flashpoints for violence between
protesters, police and government supporters.
People from both sides of the political divide, as well as members
of the security forces, have been among the victims of the country's
worst unrest in a decade.
Daniel Ceballos, mayor of San Cristobal in Tachira state, said on
Twitter that a student, Daniel Tinoco, was shot dead there late on
Monday as protesters and government supporters clashed. San
Cristobal has been hardest hit by the turmoil.
In Merida, the authorities said Rubilar was a mother of four and a
member of the ruling Socialist Party. A classmate told Reuters she
was studying higher education, had lived in Merida for six years and
worked as an artisan.
Maduro said on state television that investigations were advancing
and that her killers had been identified.
"We're on their trail," he said. "Rest assured, Chile and Latin
America, we are going to capture the assassins of this compatriot
and they will pay for this horrendous crime."
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said his government had asked
Venezuela to provide them with all the information about the
circumstances and cause of Rubilar's death.
Although street protests helped briefly topple Venezuela's late
socialist leader Hugo Chavez in a botched 2002 coup, there seems
little chance the current unrest could lead to a Ukraine-style
overthrow of his successor, Maduro.
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The military, which played a crucial role in 2002, appears firmly
behind Maduro. Opposition leaders are also split between militants
who back the street action and moderates who believe that tactic
risks violence and lacks widespread support.
The ongoing, daily protests are a mix of peaceful demonstrations and
violent exchanges between security forces and hooded protesters
hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails.
Pro- and anti-government medical personnel held rival rallies in the
capital on Monday.
Earlier in the day, the army said it raided a parking garage under
Caracas' Altamira Square — a stronghold of opposition protests — and
found a store of water, food, medicine, helmets and other equipment
destined to keep the demonstrations going. Eleven people were
arrested, the authorities said.
An increasingly confident-looking Maduro told supporters that the
protesters had been defeated.
"We have faced a coup and neutralized it," he said.
But students are vowing to stay on the street indefinitely in what
could be a protracted period of instability for Venezuela's 29
More than 1,300 have been arrested during the unrest, with 92 still
behind bars, according to the government. More than 300 people have
been injured during the unrest.
(Additional reporting by Javier Farias in San Cristobal, Daniel
Wallis and Girish Gupta in Caracas, and Fabian Cambero in Santiago;
editing by Brian Ellsworth, Tom Perry, G. Crosse and Lisa Shumaker)
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