Venezuela protest deaths rise to 72 after two killed; Brazilian sale of tear gas angers opposition
Two protesters, both aged 20, died Thursday during anti-government demonstrations in separate regions of Venezuela, bringing the total deaths in more than two months of protests to 72, officials said.
Prosecutors said they were investigating the death of Jose Perez, a student in the western town of Rubio who was "shot in the face" during a demonstration. The incident occurred when a group of students was attacked by government supporters on motorcycles "who fired 40 shots at random," local council president Walter Chacon said.
Separately, the public ministry said it was investigating the death of Luis Vera in the northwest city of Maracaibo, who was "at a demonstration when he was shot". The 37-year-old gunman was caught and will be brought before a preliminary proceedings court.
Near-daily protests against President Nicolas Maduro, which began on April 1, have often turned violent with more than 1,000 people injured so far, prosecutors say, and more than 3,000 arrested, according to the NGO Forum Penal. Many have died as a result of injuries from tear gas canisters fired onto protesters at close range or from excessive exposure to the toxic fumes.
In related news, a Brazilian company acknowledged on Friday that it is supplying Venezuela's security forces with large amounts of tear gas to control anti-government protests - prompting outrage from the Venezuelan opposition.
Rio de Janeiro-based Condor Non-Lethal Technologies confirmed that it is fulfilling two contracts in Venezuela after opposition leaders presented what they said was a document showing the armed forces had purchased almost 78,000 tear gas canisters in April.
Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro say they've asked Brazil's government, which has been highly critical of the crackdown on protests, to block delivery of the gas. So far they haven't received a response.
"People are dying of hunger. The last thing Venezuela needs is to buy riot-control products," said Eudoro Gonzalez, a deputy lawmaker for the Justice First party. "The Brazilian government should adhere to its foreign policy fundamentals of respect for human rights."