New Venezuela clashes after man set ablaze

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On 23 May 2017 saa 10:28
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Health professionals hit the streets to denounce Maduro government as protesters torch Hugo Chavez’ childhood home.

Doctors rallied in Venezuela in the latest street protests against President Nicolas Maduro as the death toll climbed to 49 with the deepening unrest entering its eighth week.

New clashes broke out between protesters and police on the outskirts of Caracas, where demonstrators blocked streets with barricades.

After marches by various civil groups, it was the turn of the Venezuelan Medical Federation to vent its frustrations on the streets.

More than a thousand of its sympathisers marched towards the health ministry in Caracas. Police fired tear gas to drive them back in scenes familiar after weeks of turmoil.

"The country is verging on catastrophe. The health system is a disaster," said Fernando Gudayol, a 50-year-old surgeon. "One is always afraid to come out, but we will carry on doing it until there is a change."

The opposition is demanding elections to remove Maduro from power. They blame him for an economic crisis that has caused shortages of food, medicine and basic supplies.

"A simple infection can turn into something serious for a lack of antibiotics and any kind of supplies, and for a lack of maintenance of the equipment," said Eliecer Melear, a 41-year-old urologist.

Maduro’s supporters staged a counter-demonstration near the presidential palace.

"What lack of medicine?" asked medical student Rangel Vegas, 31. "We are in the streets and in the clinics giving a response to what communities need."

Maduro called for a further "march for peace" on Tuesday.

Meanhwile, protesters set late president Hugo Chavez’s childhood home in western Venezuela on fire on Monday, an opposition lawmaker said.

While demonstrators are decrying Maduro for the country’s triple-digit inflation, rising crime, and shortages of food and medicine, they have also destroyed at least five statues commemorating Chavez, Maduro’s mentor and the founder of Venezuela’s "Bolivarian Revolution."

Demonstrators lit the house in the city of Barinas, where Chavez spent his early years, aflame along with several government buildings, said Pedro Luis Castillo, a legislator who represents the area.

The burnings capped a violent day in Barinas - known as the cradle of Chavez’s revolution - during which protesters clashed with national guardsmen, businesses were shuttered, and roads were blocked with fire-filled barricades.

Yorman Bervecia, 19, was shot and killed during a protest, according to the nation’s chief prosecutor. His death brings to at least 49 the number killed in two months of anti-government protests.

"It is pretty symbolic that the citizens are venting their frustrations on the author of the Bolivarian revolution," said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas.

The street clashes engulfing Venezuela appear to be turning increasingly violent, with both security forces and youth protesters looking more unruly.

Opposition leaders are urging restraint from their followers, but say security forces and pro-government militias - not the protesters - are behind the vast number of deadly attacks.

Maduro accused protesters on Sunday of setting fire to a government supporter, saying what he calls "Nazi-fascist" elements are taking root inside the opposition’s ranks.

Maduro said Orlando Zaragoza, 21, suffered burns to almost all his body when he was doused with gasoline and set on fire at a protest in Caracas a day earlier. Videos circulating on social media show a man covered in flames fleeing a small mob.

It’s not clear what triggered the attack, which is under investigation, although some eyewitnesses told local media that Zaragoza was caught robbing demonstrators who had gathered by the tens of thousands to protest Maduro’s rule.

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Demonstrators throw tear gas canisters back as they clash with security forces on Monday

Source:Al Jazeera


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