Nueva Esparta, March 30th 2016 (Venezuelanalysis) - Two Venezuelan police personnel were killed this Tuesday after a protest in a Tachira university turned deadly.
According to eyewitness reports, the two law enforcement officials, Armando Otos Marqués Molina (24) and Nicolle Melisa Pérez Soler (21), were run down by a bus that had been hijacked by hooded militants.
Both officials had been called in to help control unrest at the Technology University Institute (IUT) in the Colombia-Venezuela border city of San Cristobal over an apparent hike in transport costs.
“Protests in La Concordia Depot left 2 police dead, run down by a bus abducted by hooded men,” stated Tachira police on Twitter.
“The police were cordoning off the zone to prevent hooded militants from attacking private vehicles when they were knocked down,” they added.
Accounts of the incident on Twitter describe how violence erupted when extremists hijacked several public transport buses from the nearby local bus depot and then drove them towards the IUT.
A video circulating on social media shows the moment that one of the stolen buses was driven into a line of police, killing both victims and seriously injuring several others.
The impact left the wounded officers “battling between life and death,” Tachira police confirmed.
“Honour and glory to the brave men and women @Tachira police and to the #PNB (National Bolivarian Police) who put their lives on the line to protect the population,” tweeted state governor Jose Vielma Mora.
“We want peace. We reject the violence that today left two families without their children,” he added.
A first year student at the IUT was captured by security officials on Tuesday night and charged with double homicide and attempted murder.
Twenty-two year old José Gregorio Sulbaran Muñoz is alleged to have been at the wheel when the bus ploughed into the two young officers.
“Breaking: Captured in Las Vegas de Táriba the criminal that ran down and killed two police personnel in the IUT protests,” confirmed Tachira police on Twitter.
Jorge Luis Dominguez Ortegas, a second year student at the IUT has also been detained and will face the same charges.
Security officials made another 44 arrests in relation to Tuesday’s events, including the detention of a student reportedly carrying explosive materials in Tachira’s public transport depot.
At least seventeen buses are also thought to have been seized by the masked protesters during the unrest.
Higher education institutes in the area have long been a stronghold for Venezuela’s rabidly anti-government rightwing youth and student movement.
Protests over the past two years have regularly led to stand-offs with police and arson attacks on local buildings.
Tuesday’s incident is the first time that the confrontations have led to a fatal outcome since scores of law enforcement officials and members of the armed forces were killed in the nation-wide violent protests known as the guarimbas in 2014.
Last week a pro-government Tachira lawmaker was also assassinated by alleged rightwing paramilitaries.