Puebla, Mexico, June 8, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Two more people died Wednesday as protests continued to grip Venezuela, with the country’s wave of political unrest showing no signs of abating.
The latest casualties of the violence include a 17 year old protester and a National Guard (GNB) soldier.
The protester, Neomar Lander, died under disputed circumstances after clashes with security forces in the Chacao municipality of Miranda state.
Opposition groups have claimed Lander was killed by security forces, after being shot by a teargas canister. However, the government’s human rights ombudsperson, Tarek William Saab, said an autopsy revealed Lander was likely killed after a home-made explosive accidentally detonated in his hands.
"The result of the forensic medical autopsy reveals that the terrible death of Neomar Lander was not by a tear gas bomb," Saab said.
He continued “[Lander] suffered fractures to the 4th and 5th ribs, an explosion of the left lung with internal haemorrhaging (and) forearm burn [caused[ by a handmade … explosive.”
This conclusion has been disputed by the opposition-aligned El Nacional newspaper, which claimed Thursday to have obtained footage proving Lander wasn’t holding an explosive at the time of his death.
But the edited footage only shows what appears to be Lander’s body lying on the ground surrounded by tear gas shortly after he fell. The video doesn’t clearly show whether the protester was armed or not at the time of his death.
The Public Prosecutor’s office has responded by stating an investigation is ongoing.
Hours after Lander’s death, the body of a GNB soldier was also found in the nearby neighbourhood of Altamira. First Sergeant Wilfredo Jose Mendoza Plaza appeared to have been robbed of his service weapon and motorbike, though the reasons behind his death are yet to be confirmed. A police report of the incident suggested he may have been the victim of a robbery, and it’s unclear whether the incident was related to the nearby protests.
Also in Altamira, two police officers were arrested under allegations of misconduct. The arrests came after footage surfaced on social media on Monday that allegedly showed riot police robbing a detained protester. In a statement, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said the arrested police included those who “appeared in a video on social networks”. Reverol condemned the actions of the officers, and said they did not represent the “sentiments and actions” of the wider police force.
The opposition has condemned the incident, and called for charges against the officers involved.
As protests continued, authorities in Caracas reported a fresh wave of vandalism targeting public buildings. According to Transport Minister Ricardo Molina, the headquarters of his ministry in Chacao were ransacked by anti-government groups Wednesday afternoon. Speaking to state broadcaster VTV, Molina said the protesters also assaulted public workers.
"They reached [as far as] the second floor, causing destruction everywhere they went,” he said. Elsewhere in Chacao, the legal body, the Executive Directorate of the Judiciary, was also targeted by violent groups, according to authorities.
The attack on the directorate’s offices began when protesters tried to ram a truck through the building’s entrance onto the street. The office was then showered with Molotov cocktails and other improvised explosives, authorities have said. During the incident, opposition media have claimed at least one armed individual appeared on the building's roof, and fired at the attackers.
Government buildings and public transport are often targeted by opposition groups, who have been staging often violent anti-government protests for just over two months. So far, 75 people have died in the unrest, with 21 of the casualties related to opposition violence. At least eleven of the deaths have been attributed to the actions of state security forces.