Participants clash with police during a protest against
Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas. REUTERS/Carlos
A pregnant woman was shot dead near Caracas and a soldier
was killed in the western state of Merida, officials said, as
the death toll from weeks of anti-government protests in
Venezuela rose to 36.
Supporters of both sides and members of the security forces
are among those killed in the nation's worst unrest in a
decade, due to demonstrations against socialist President
Nicolas Maduro that kicked off last month.
Francisco Garces, mayor of Guaicaipuro municipality near the
capital and a member of the ruling Socialist Party, said the
28-year-old pregnant woman was shot dead on Sunday during a
"We categorically reject the demonstrations that caused this
death," Garces told reporters.
The state prosecutor's office said the woman, Adriana
Urquiola, was shot after getting off a public bus halted by a
barricade set up by protesters.
In the western state of Merida, a senior military source and
hospital officials said a National Guard sergeant died on
Monday after being shot in the neck during clashes there.
Streets barriers have become flashpoints for violence between
radical supporters of both sides, who sometimes carry
firearms. Members of the security forces have also come under
fire from nearby buildings as they try to dismantle them.
Merida and neighbouring Tachira state, by the border with
Colombia, have been harder hit by the violence than anywhere
else since the protests began. Last week, intelligence agents
arrested the opposition mayor of San Cristobal city in
Tachira and accused him of fomenting "civil rebellion."
The protests began in February with sporadic demonstrations
by university students. They intensified after three people
were killed following a Feb. 12 rally in downtown Caracas.
The demonstrators want political change and an end to high
inflation, shortages of basic foods, and one of the highest
rates of violent crime in the world.
The main opposition leaders have repeatedly declined offers
by Maduro for dialogue, saying they refuse to take part in
meetings that will provide little more than photo-ops.
The demonstrators are demanding the president resign, while
Maduro says they want a coup like the one 12 years ago that
briefly ousted his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.
The numbers of protesters are far fewer than those who turned
out against Chavez in 2002, and there have been no signs that
the current unrest threatens to topple Maduro.