Fifth protester killed in Venezuela as movement gains steam

Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets in eastern Caracas amid a tropical downpour Thursday to support a protest movement that is gaining steam even as it turns more deadly.

Venezuela officials confirmed earlier in the day that a fifth person had died in the wave of anti-government protests now entering its third week. The public prosecutor's office said it would investigate the death of 36-year-old Miguel Colmenares who was shot at a protest in the central city of Barquisimeto on Tuesday.

32-year-old Gruseny Calderon was killed during the same protest after he was injured by rubber bullets that pierced his lung and liver. The protests have also claimed the lives of two college students and a 13-year-old.

The opposition had planned protests in more than 300 municipalities for Thursday, with the aim of diluting the power of government security forces. But a tropical rainstorm suppressed turnout. The Caracas rally was peaceful until the end, when young men clashed with hundreds of riot police who lobbed tear gas to break up the crowd. As state security forces lean more heavily on tear gas, protesters have begun coming ready with goggles, vinegar-soaked rags and gas masks.

"It's time to stop being poor and hungry. I'm going to stay in the streets until we get rid of this government," 21-year-old graphic designer Rolisber Aguirre said as he marched in the rain toward the center of the city.

More protests are planned for the coming days, leading up to an April 19 demonstration the opposition is billing as “the mother of all marches.”