Venezuela spiralling into chaos amid looting, militarized police
At least 20 have died since April 4 as frustrated Venezuelans protest Maduro government
The smell of tear gas and smoke from fires filled the air in several Caracas neighbourhoods on Friday after a night that saw at least 12 people die. In the humble district of El Valle, people screamed, while the sound of gunshots sent neighbours and protesters running for safety
Protesters are vowing to continue their opposition to the government of President Nicolas Maduro, after the deadliest day in three weeks of one anti-government protest after another.
Among the dead were eight people who were electrocuted in a bakery as it was being looted. About 20 have died in the past month, most shot in the head.
The violence played out in at least five locations in the Venezuelan capital, beginning at sundown after the opposition called for more street protests to pressure the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Life is difficult in Venezuela
A Supreme Court decision that stripped the opposition controlled National Assembly of its powers on April 4 began the series of protests. The court later reversed its decision, but the unrest had begun, as life has become increasingly difficult in the formerly oil-rich nation.
Venezuelans face inflation that hit 550 per cent in 2016, according to Congressman Jose Guerra, though the government cites an IMF estimate of 274 per cent.
Shortages of food and medicines have people waiting in long lines to buy something as simple as sugar or soap.
Michelle Mijares, a 23-year-old nurse, says street demonstrations seem the only way to apply pressure to this government.
"You can see people are very upset, and right now, we are ready for anything," she said.
National Guard steps in
The government has also taken over or blocked all media, making it difficult to confirm news, including the number of dead. Twitter is the main source of information in the country, with journalists using it to send out information and protestors using it to let others know what is happening on the ground.
On Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of people marched in 20 different locations in the capital, resulting in a rain of tear gas and rubber bullets from the National Guard.
Government supporters and opposition activists screamed at each other and security forces blocked demonstrators as they tried to reach the Ombudsman's office.
More than 200 people were injured and a 17-year-old boy was fatally shot in the head by armed groups that support the government, according to witnesses.
"I'm sick and tired," said 21-year-old medical student Leonel Bolivar. "There is no food and no medicines for all future patients I will meet."
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The MUD, a coalition of opposition political parties, announced a new protest for Saturday to honour those who were murdered in the past month.
Those protests, which involved thousands holding white flowers, were mostly peaceful, but also drew a heavy police presence.