Venezuela unrest death toll rises, Chavez statue destroyed

Venezuela unrest death toll rises, Chavez statue destroyed

A 20-year-old Venezuelan protester died on Friday after being shot in the head, authorities said, taking fatalities from a month of anti-government unrest to at least 37 as the opposition geared up for more demonstrations, Reuters reported.

Hecder Lugo was hurt during fighting between demonstrators and security forces in Valencia on Thursday that also injured four others, the local opposition Mayor Enzo Scarano said in a series of tweets.

The state prosecutor's office, which keeps an official count of deaths since protests began against socialist President Nicolas Maduro in early April, confirmed he died after being shot in a protest.

Another 717 people have been injured and 152 are still in jail from the hundreds rounded up in widespread unrest around the volatile South American OPEC nation of 30 million people, according to the office's latest tally.

There has been violence and widespread looting this week in Valencia, a once-bustling industrial hub two hours from the capital by road.

And in an incident loaded with symbolism, a handful of young men destroyed a statue of late leader Hugo Chavez in the oil-producing Zulia state, according to videos circulating on social media on Friday evening.

Footage shows the statue, which depicts Chavez saluting and wearing a sash, being yanked down to cheers in a public plaza before it is bashed into a sidewalk and then the road as onlookers swear at the leftist, who died in 2013 from cancer.

"Students destroyed this statue of Chavez. They accuse him, correctly, of destroying their future," opposition lawmaker Carlos Valero said about the incident, which was also reported in local media. Reuters was unable to independently confirm it.

Venezuela's opposition, which now enjoys majority support after being in the shadow of the ruling Socialist party since Chavez's 1998 election win, says his successor Maduro has become a dictator and wrecked the economy.

Vowing to stay in the streets for as long as necessary, opposition leaders announced nationwide women's marches for Saturday with the biggest planned for the capital Caracas.

Opposition lawmakers briefly unfurled a banner on Friday at the National Assembly, where they won a majority in 2015 thanks to voter ire over the recession, saying "Maduro Dictator".

The president says they are seeking a violent coup with U.S. support, and is setting up a "constituent assembly" super body to shake up public powers, change the constitution, and possibly replace the existing legislature.

"President Maduro has made a big call to national dialogue," Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told diplomats at a meeting on Friday, showing them images of violence and vandalism on the streets caused by youths at the front of protests.

"They are not peaceful, the opposition leaders share big responsibility in these acts of extremism and vandalism."

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