Puebla, Mexico, May 26, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan prosecutors announced Thursday they will be pressing charges against three police officers accused of involvement in the death of a student in Bolivar state.
University student Pugas Velasquez was shot in the head amid protests at the Universidad de Oriente in Cuidad Bolivar. The shooting took place amid opposition protests at the university, though its unclear if Velasquez was involved in the demonstration. The opposition has condemned the death as an example of the use of excessive force.
In a preliminary hearing slated for Friday, public prosecutors said they will present evidence that links three police officers to the shooting. The officers include Annel Jairo Medina Delgadillo, Gabriel Ali Centeno Navas and Cristhiam Jose Arzolay. The prosecution has stated they will argue the three officers acted improperly, though the exact charges against them are yet to be made public.
The trio have already been detained.
Meanwhile, interior minister Nestor Reverol said late Thursday authorities were continuing investigations into two arrested civilians accused of being involved in the death of an opposition protester in Maracaibo.
Omar Andres Barrios Rojas and his partner, Liz Mary Hernandez Paredes, handed themselves over to authorities earlier this week following the death of protester Paul Rene Moreno Camacho on May 17. Barrios is accused of running over Moreno as he attempted to force his way through an opposition roadblock, reports Venezuelan website Aporrea. Moreno was rushed to hospital, but died shortly after the incident. The vehicle allegedly involved in the death has also been seized by authorities.
The government was initially blamed for the death by opposition spokespeople.
“Another young Venezuelan murdered by the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro in Maracaibo,” opposition politician Juan Pablo Guanipa tweeted.
Reverol responded to opposition criticism by arguing the arrest of the pair allegedly involved in Moren’s death shows the government is prepared to take action against anyone who attacks opposition demonstrators.
“It’s evident once again that security forces have acted in search of the truth, and to guarantee peace and justice,” he said.
So far, 22 members of state security forces including police and National Guard personnel have been arrested for misconduct during protests. Those arrested have been charged with crimes ranging from homicide and the misuse of a firearm, to carrying out unjust arrests.
State security forces may be responsible for at least nine deaths since opposition erupted across Venezuela over a month ago, according to data compiled by venezuelanalysis.com. In total, 55 people have been killed amid the unrest, according to Attorney General Luisa Ortega. However, an independent tally of the deaths from venezuelanalysis.com has put the death toll higher, at 65. That death toll also estimates at least 18 people have died as a result of opposition violence.