Venezuela protest: Pro-government supporter set on fire as death toll hits 48

Mass demonstration bring Caracas to standstill on 50th day of unrest against President Maduro 

Chloe Farand
Monday 22 May 2017 12:45
Venezuelan protests continue as death toll hits 48

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused opposition protesters of setting a pro-government supporter on fire on the 50th day of the wave of protests, which has gripped the country.

Footage of the man being set alight was broadcasted on state television and the man, identified as Orlando Figuera, 21, has been treated in hospital for severe burns and several stab wounds.

About 46 people are also believed to have been injured during the protest

Witnesses to the incident said the crowd accused the man of being a thief.

According to reports, about 100 people, who were participating in anti-Maduro protests in Caracas, surrounded Mr Figuera, doused him in gasoline and set him alight in Plaza Altamira in the east of the country’s capital.

Images from the scene showed him running near naked with flames from his back.

"A person was set on fire, beaten up, stabbed... They nearly lynched him, just because he shouted out that he was a 'Chavista'," Mr Maduro said, referring to the ruling socialist movement set up by his predecessor Hugo Chavez.

On the same day, a young opposition activists died from a gunshot wound to his chest, raising the number of people killed to 48, including supporters of both sides, some bystanders and members of the security force, officials said.

The attorney general’s office said the gunmen opened fire on an anti-government demonstration in the western city of Valera Saturday and shot dead 23-year-old Edy Alejandro Teran Aguilar.

Two other protesters were also wounded in the shooting.

Mass demonstrations against President Maduro have taken place across Venezuela for seven weeks with protesters demanding early elections in what has become increasingly violent demonstrations. In some cities, the protests degenerated into clashes between protesters and government troops and police.

Opposition demonstrators set on fire Orlando Figuera during a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Caraca

Saturday marked the 50th day of unrest in the country and protesters with white shirts, homemade gas masks and flags draped around their shoulders shut down a main road bringing central Caracas to near standstill.

Speaking on his weekly television programme, President Maduro described the incident of the pro-government supporter being set alight as “a hate crime and a crime against humanity”.

The 54-year-old president claimed protesters are seeking a violent coup against him with the support of the US.

He accused President Donald Trump of being involved in a “conspiracy” to “take political control of Venezuela”.

"Venezuela is facing ... a coup movement that has turned into hatred and intolerance, very similar to Nazi fascism," he said.

Reacting on Twitter, Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas wrote: "Growing insanity. A human being is set on fire at a 'peaceful demonstration' by the opposition in Caracas.”

Opposition to Mr Maduro accuse the Venezuelan President of having become a dictator, wrecking the economy and causing desperation by opposing an electoral exit to the political crisis. They say Mr Maduro has instead unleashed repression and torture against protesters.

The Venezuelan authorities have blocked a referendum last year, delayed state elections and are resisting calls to bring forward the next presidential election scheduled for late 2019.

Seven in 10 Venezuelans reject Mr Maduro’s leadership, according to private surveys. The country’s economy has collapsed, in part due to the drop of the price of oil, its main revenue, and crime is rampant.

The opposition has accused members of government of benefiting from corruption and enriching themselves while Venezuelans suffer a crippling recession and are facing a shortage of basic items including food and medicine.

They say Mr Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez ruined the economy since coming to power in 1999.

Additional reporting from news agencies.

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