Tensions are rising in Venezuela after a 14-year-old boy was fatally shot by police officers during an anti-government protest.
Kluiverth Roa was killed in what initially began as a small demonstration but quickly grew against President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government in San Cristobal.
The student was reportedly shot in the head with a rubber bullet when protesters clashed with police in the western city.
The country has been in gripped by an economic crisis in recent months spurred by dropping oil prices in international markets, Venezuela’s main export.
Horrific pictures emerged showing Kluiverth lying in the floor, still wearing his backpack, as people rushed to try and stem the blood pouring from his head. Others could be seen rushing him into an ambulance on a stretcher. He died on his way to hospital.
In a televised address, Maduro claimed masked protesters had used rocks to attack police trying to calm the demonstration and called on young people to “give up the violence”.
"There is no reason for violent protests. I make an appeal to our country, and especially the young, to give up violence. Hatred will not lead to anything,” he was quoted by the BBC as saying.
"Give up all violence, lads. And rest assured that if a government official breaks the law I will be the first one to go after him.”
He also offered his condolences to the family of the late teenager.
February marks the one year anniversary of massive street protests in the city that left more than 40 people dead.
One of Venezuela's more radical opposition parties called for a demonstration in the capital to demand an investigation into the cases of students who have died at the hands of the government.
Officials say police officer Javier Mora Ortiz, 23, has been arrested in connection with Kluiverth’s death. The officers involved in the incident have been detained, the Venezuelan ombudsman Tarek William Saab was quoted as saying. He denounced the death as a "vile assassination" in a strongly worded statement.
“How are you going shoot point-blank at a student who’s just leaving school to go home?” resident Glenda Lugo asked the Associated Press. “We’re tired of this injustice.”
Maduro's government recently issued a policy change to allow law enforcement officials to open fire and use deadly force to control protests.
At the time, human rights groups said the new regulation was dangerously vague. On Tuesday, critics questioned whether the police might actually have been using live rounds.
Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said there were no words to describe her "pain and indignation".
"They've killed a 14-year-old child," she said. "A kid protesting with his classmates."
Additional reporting by AP and ReutersReuse content