Venezuela's president blames opposition for death of retired officer

2017-05-29 09:20
(Fernando Llano, AP)

(Fernando Llano, AP)

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Caracas - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday blamed opposition demonstrators for the killing of a retired military officer and called it a hate crime.

The 34-year-old retired National Guard lieutenant, who has yet to be identified, was beaten and shot to death by attackers Saturday night in the town of Cabudare in the western state of Lara, prosecutors said.

They did not link the man's death to the wave of sometimes violent anti-government protests that have raged for 58 straight days, with a death toll that now stands at 59.

"It is a hate crime," Maduro said on his weekly programme on state-run VTV.

"He was attacked by a group of criminals, killers, violent demonstrators who beat him and then finished him off. Is this political opposition? It is criminal terrorism," the president said.

The nationwide demonstrations kicked off in late March, with opposition leaders seeking the removal of Venezuela's leftist president, whose already-low popularity has cratered amid severe shortages of food and medicines, among other economic woes.

The government also announced the death of a 20-year-old man injured in the abdomen during a protest Saturday in the city of Lecheria in the eastern state of Anzoategui. He belonged to a party led by a jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez.

News reports said the slain officer was taking photos during a memorial ceremony for someone who died during the protest wave. People interpreted this as spying and began attacking him.

Maduro said opposition leaders were complicit in the attack because they did not condemn it.

But opposition leaders on Saturday did in fact come out against the attack.

Freddy Guevara, deputy speaker of the National Assembly, the only government body in Venezuela that is controlled by the opposition, called it a lynching.

"Pain must not turn us into that which we are fighting," Guevara wrote on Twitter.

Read more on:    venezuela

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