New Venezuela clashes after man set ablaze

Doctors rallied in Venezuela in the latest street protests against President Nicolas Maduro as the death toll climbed to 49 with the deepening unrest entering its eighth week.

After marches by various civil groups, it was the turn of the Venezuelan Medical Federation to vent its frustrations on the streets. More than a thousand of its sympathisers marched towards the health ministry in Caracas.

Police fired tear gas to drive them back in scenes familiar after weeks of turmoil. "The country is verging on catastrophe. The health system is a disaster," said Fernando Gudayol, a 50-year-old surgeon. "One is always afraid to come out, but we will carry on doing it until there is a change."    

"A simple infection can turn into something serious for a lack of antibiotics and any kind of supplies, and for a lack of maintenance of the equipment," said Eliecer Melear, a 41-year-old urologist.     

Meanhwile, protesters set late president Hugo Chavez's childhood home in western Venezuela on fire on Monday, an opposition lawmaker said. Demonstrators have so far destroyed at least five statues commemorating Chavez, Maduro's mentor and the founder of Venezuela's "Bolivarian Revolution."

"It is pretty symbolic that the citizens are venting their frustrations on the author of the Bolivarian revolution," said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas.

Yorman Bervecia, 19, was shot and killed during a protest, according to the nation's chief prosecutor. His death brings to at least 49 the number killed in two months of anti-government protests.

Opposition leaders are urging restraint from their followers, but say security forces and pro-government militias - not the protesters - are behind the vast number of deadly attacks.

Maduro accused protesters on Sunday of setting fire to a government supporter saying that Orlando Zaragoza, 21, suffered burns to almost all his body when he was doused with gasoline and set on fire at a protest in Caracas a day earlier. Videos circulating on social media show a man covered in flames fleeing a small mob.

It's not clear what triggered the attack, which is under investigation, although some eyewitnesses told local media that Zaragoza was caught robbing demonstrators who had gathered by the tens of thousands to protest Maduro's rule.

 

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