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article imageVenezuela toll rises to 48 dead after protester is killed

By AFP     May 21, 2017 in World

A young demonstrator has died from a gunshot wound to the chest, raising to 48 the number of people killed in seven weeks of protests against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, officials said Sunday.

The president personally denounced a brutal attack on another man he said had been taken for a government supporter during one of several massive demonstrations across the country Saturday demanding early elections.

The man, identified as Orlando Figuera, 21, was beaten, stabbed and burned -- "like Islamic State terrorists do," Maduro said. Figuera was hospitalized with first- and second-degree burns over half of his body, and for six knife wounds.

The death occurred earlier in the western city of Valera. The attorney general's office said gunmen there opened fire Saturday on an anti-government demonstration.

"At that moment, (Edy Alejandro) Teran Aguilar received a bullet in the chest," the office said in a statement.

Also wounded in the shootings were an 18-year-old male and a 50-year-old woman, it said. Teran was 23.

In some cities, the protests degenerated into clashes between demonstrators demanding elections to replace Maduro, and police and government troops.

- 'Growing insanity' -

"Growing insanity. A human being is set on fire at a 'peaceful demonstration' by the opposition in Caracas," Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said on Twitter, posting a video of the Figuera incident.

Riot policemen struggle with a demonstrator during a protest against the government of President Nic...
Riot policemen struggle with a demonstrator during a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on May 20, 2017
FEDERICO PARRA, AFP

The prosecutor's office said it had opened an investigation.

Maduro blamed "the leaders of groups of mercenaries" for the violence and said several of them were already in prison.

And he reiterated earlier complaints that US President Donald Trump is behind the country's troubles.

Trump, he said, had his hands "deeply penetrated in this conspiracy, which aims to take political control of Venezuela."

- Scores injured in Caracas -

The mayor of a municipality in the eastern part of Caracas said 46 people were injured in Saturday's protests, while in the Caracas suburb of San Antonio Los Altos a youth was wounded by gunfire, the opposition governor of the state of Miranda said.

Since the protests began April 1, hundreds of people have been injured and some 2,200 have been detained, 161 of them jailed on orders of military courts, Foro Penal, a non-governmental monitor, said.

Seven in 10 Venezuelans reject Maduro's leadership, according to private surveys, amid widespread economic devastation aggravated by the drop in the prices of oil -- Venezuela's chief revenue source -- in 2014.

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