Hours after the start of marches by the opposition and a counter rally by supporters of President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday, Venezuela’s public ministry said it had started an investigation into the shooting of a 17-year-old boy who was struck in the head an hour into the march in Caracas.
The teenager, later identified as Carlos Moreno, died while undergoing surgery, a hospital representative told CNN.
Moreno’s sister, Alejandra, said Carlos studied economics at Venezuelan Central University in Caracas. Instead of joining the marches, she said, he was on the way to play soccer.
Video posted on social media showed a young man on the ground in the San Bernardino neighborhood — a pool of blood near his head — surrounded by marchers. A woman is heard yelling, “They’ve killed him.”
The ministry later said it was also investigating the Wednesday afternoon shooting death of Paola Andreina Ramírez Gómez, 23, in plaza San Carlos in San Cristóbal, Tachira state
Jorban Contreras, a paramedic and director of the civil protection unit in Tachira, said the woman lost a lot of blood and was already dead from a gunshot wound to her chest when he arrived.
In a third death, Venezuelan National Guard Sgt. Niumar Jose San Clemente Barrios was fatally shot during the protests Wednesday night, said the public prosecutor’s office and Venezuela’s top human rights official, ombudsman Tarek William Saab. A second guardsman was wounded by a bullet, the officials said. Both were shot during “violent protests” in the municipality of Los Salias, south of the nation’s capital, according to Saab.
The public prosecutor’s office has called for an investigation into the shooting.
The march was held on a national holiday commemorating Venezuela’s historic independence struggle from Spain.
Maduro, who along with his supporters called for the countermarch, had deployed the Venezuelan armed forces to the streets on Sunday night amid rising tensions.
Wednesday’s marches underscored the widening political rifts in the country, where the opposition has accused Maduro of creating a dictatorship in the last few years. The government has repeatedly blocked any attempts by the opposition to oust Maduro from power by a referendum vote. It has also delayed local and state elections.
Government supporters and security forces on Wednesday succeeded in blocking marchers from reaching certain parts of the city, according to observers. Throughout the day, water cannons and tear gas canisters were unleashed on opposition marchers.
Video posted on social media showed marchers — some covering their faces — crossing the narrow Guaire River in the nation’s capital in attempts to elude tear gas blasts.
The video was posted by David Smolansky, mayor of the municipality of El Hatillo and an opposition leader.
n Washington, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed concerns to reporters Wednesday that the “government of Maduro is violating its own constitution and is not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard, nor allowing them to organize in a way that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people.”
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said via Twitter on Wednesday that he had directed his country’s exterior ministry to ask the UN Secretary General to address what he called the “worrying militarization of Venezuelan society.”
The protests have been bloody. Six people have died and countless others, many journalists, have been injured.
Maduro, 54, has been defiant. Instead of taking steps to reduce tensions with the opposition, he has taken a confrontational tone with members of the opposition and protesters, whom he calls “vandals and terrorists.”
Unemployment, meanwhile, is set to surpass 25% this year, possibly on its way to 28% next year. It was at 7.4% in 2015.
Venezuela’s economy shrank 18% last year, its third year of recession. It is expected to be in the red this year and next.
CNN’s Mariano Castillo, Natalie Gallón, Marilia Brochetto, Mariano Castillo, Stefano Pozzebon and Gizela Crespo contributed to this report.