Puebla, Mexico, June 16, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Two opposition protesters were killed in Venezuela Thursday, in the wake of the assassination of a prominent right-wing politician.
The two latest deaths include 20-year-old protester Luis Enrique Vera Sulbaran and Jose Gregorio Perez Perez.
A university student, Vera died after being hit by a pick up truck while blocking a road in Venezuela’s second largest city, Maracaibo. The pick up truck was then torched by protesters.
Police believe the death occurred after the protesters attempted to loot the pick up truck, which was carrying medical supplies. According to Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, Vera was struck by the truck as the driver attempted to flee the robbery.
Opposition protesters are known to attempt to loot vehicles, and in some parts of the country there have been reports they demand bribes from motorists attempting to pass their barricades.
However, the official account of Vera’s death has been disputed by local opposition supporters, who have claimed the protesters didn’t try to loot the vehicle.
The driver has been charged with homicide.
Meanwhile, another protester has been killed in the violence-plagued state of Tachira. For weeks, Tachira has been one of the epicentres of opposition violence. On Thursday, protester Perez was shot by two unidentified assailants in Tachira’s Junin municipality shortly after taking part in a demonstration. According to El Universal, the two unknown attackers approached Perez in a cafe, and gunned him down without a word.
Some local opposition supporters have blamed government-backed groups for the killing, though they have yet to provide evidence to bolster the accusation.
The public prosecutor’s office has stated it is investigating the case.
“There was an irregular situation in which Perez … was shot in the face. Immediately, the young man was aided and transferred to the Padre Justo hospital in the municipality Junin, where he arrived without vital signs,” the prosecutor said in a statement.
Reverol has condemned the killing, and lamented it comes amid wider political violence in Tachira state. Bordering Colombia, Tachira has long struggled with paramilitary violence.
President Nicolas Maduro has also responded to the deaths, calling for calm and an end to violence.
“I call on the population, for the greatest calm, the greatest prudence and the greatest peace to avoid violence,” he said.
The deaths of Vera and Perez come just days after another high profile killing. On Monday, a prominent member of the right-wing Voluntad Popular party was killed in Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar state. The politician, Jose Santiago Molleton Quintero, was a pre-candidate for the position of mayor in the municipality of Soledad, according to the opposition-aligned El Nacional newspaper. He was also the head of a local union for heavy industrial workers.
According to local media reports, witnesses said Molleton was approached by an unidentified assailant in a restaurant. The attacker fired multiple shots, killing Molleton and injuring one other person.
Authorities say they are investigating the killing.
The latest killings bring the total death toll of the last two months of political unrest to 82, according to data compiled by venezuelanalysis.com. So far 22 of those deaths are suspected to be linked to the actions of opposition protesters, while 11 may have been caused by authorities. Thirteen were reportedly the result of looting, and two are suspected to have been linked to pro-government civilians. Two other deaths were accidents, while 30 took place under unclear or heavily disputed circumstances.