Caracas, Venezuela • A municipal worker was fatally shot while removing a street barricade in a middle-class Caracas neighborhood, officials announced Wednesday, and 16 people were injured when the Venezuelan National Guard moved forcefully into a small town near the Colombian border.
According to preliminary information from the federal prosecutor’s office, Francisco Alcides Madrid Rosendo, 32, was shot multiple times around 10 p.m. Tuesday while he and others were taking down a barricade in the Montalban neighborhood in Caracas’ western section. His death raised to 27 the official toll from more than a month’s worth of protests.
Pro-government Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez through his Twitter account blamed unnamed "terrorists" for the killing, but provided no other details.
Caracas and other Venezuelan cities have been roiled by more than a month of anti-government demonstrations. Student-led protests that began in early February have drawn support from middle-class people frustrated by inflation that reached an annualized rate of 57 percent last month, soaring violent crime and shortages of basic items such as cooking oil and toilet paper. About 365 more people have been wounded in the demonstrations.
In the western Venezuelan town of Rubio in Tachira state on Wednesday, local officials and residents reported an intense effort by the National Guard to clear protesters’ barricades that had sealed off neighborhoods for weeks.
"The situation is terrible here," Francisco Rincon, vice president of the Rubio municipal council, told The Associated Press. He said soldiers with rifles were on the street corners. He said he had counted 16 wounded, four of them by bullets.
Rincon, who is a member of the opposition Popular Will party, said their supporters had protested peacefully in the morning before being dispersed by tear gas and plastic buckshot by National Guardsmen and pro-government civilians.
The prosecutor’s office did not immediately comment on another unrelated death reported Wednesday in the western state of Tachira, where the circumstances were unclear.
Raul Casanova, the rector of the National Experimental University of Tachira, told The Associated Press Wednesday that 18-year-old Anthony Rojas was fatally shot Tuesday night in Tariba, on outskirts of San Cristobal. Casanova said Rojas, a mechanical engineering student at the university, had participated in past opposition protests in San Cristobal, but was not doing so when he was shot.
Casanova said one of Rojas’ family members told him that the young man was shot when he ran into an armed confrontation while going to a liquor store.
But Jorge Mora, the opposition president of the Tariba council, told the AP that Rojas was followed by armed government supporters and when he tried to hide in a store "they came by shooting." Another woman was wounded in the attack, Mora said.
Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Maria Corina Machado is expected to speak Friday at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington about the situation in Venezuela. Because the Venezuelan government controls the country’s seat, Panama has offered Machado its seat to make her presentation to the regional body.
The Venezuelan National Assembly voted Tuesday to begin a process that could strip Machado of her immunity inside the South American country, accusing her of civil disobedience and trying to destabilize the government.
Machado told a reporter from The Associated Press who was on the same flight to Miami on Wednesday that she was "very worried" about the effort to bring criminal charges against her.
"It’s fundamental that the world understand what’s happening in our country," she said of her upcoming appearance before the OAS.
The body earlier this month approved a declaration supporting President Nicolas Maduro’s efforts to start a dialogue with the political opposition. Panama, the United States and Canada voted against it.
Also Wednesday, petroleum workers representative Marla Munoz said on state television that the offices of the oil and mining ministry and state-owned oil company were simultaneously attacked earlier that morning with Molotov cocktails in the state of Barinas, southwest of Caracas. She said the attack was apparently aimed at scaring oil workers into withdrawing their support of the government.
Associated Press reporters Christopher Sherman in Caracas and Andrew Rosati in Miami contributed to this report.
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