Tensions rise in Venezuela after 14-year-old protester is killed during clash with police
A 14-year-old boy was shot in the head and killed Tuesday during a protest against the government of Nicolas Maduro in western Venezuela.
Preliminary investigations suggest the school student, identified by the Associated Press as Kliverth Roa, was injured during a confrontation between police and protesters in the city of San Cirstobal, and died on the way to the hospital.
A photo and video of the student lying in a pool of blood, his backpack hanging over his shoulder, as a man frantically tries to staunch the bleeding rocketed around social media.
Venezuelan media is identifying the boy as Kluiver Ferney Roa Núñez.
Soon after the shooting, one of the more radical opposition parties called for a gathering in the capital, Caracas, Thursday to demand an investigation into the cases of students who have died at the hands of the government.
Residents of San Cristobal, a university town near the Colombian border known for its tendency toward protests, were outraged.
“How are you going shoot point blank at a student who’s just leaving school to go home?” asked Glenda Lugo. “We’re tired of this injustice.”
Ruling party officials swiftly condemned the killing and offered condolences to the family.
Interior Relations Minister Carmen Melendez pledged that the government would pursue Roa’s killer “relentlessly,” and said in a televised interview that a member of the national police had already admitted to shooting the student with a shotgun.
She repeatedly called for general peace and tranquility. But what had started as a small demonstration was swelling into a larger protest as night fell in San Cristobal, with shops closing their doors and public transportation stopping routes in anticipation of unrest. Some schools announced that classes would be canceled Wednesday.
Venezuelan ombudsman Tarek William Saab, a federal official charged with defending human rights, said on Twitter that he deplored the “vile assassination” of the teen, who he named as Kluiverth Roa, though other officials spelled his first name differently.
The attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into the teen’s death.
Last month, the government issued a policy change to allow law enforcement officials to open fire and use deadly force to control protests. At the time, human rights groups said the new regulations were dangerously vague, but Saab defended them.
Tensions are running high in Venezuela following of a slew of bad economic news and the arrest last week of the opposition mayor of Caracas. February marks the one year anniversary of massive street protests that choked neighborhoods around Venezuela and left more than 40 people dead.
Dissatisfaction with the administration has grown in the past year, but opposition leaders have so far been reluctant to call for similarly large-scale protests.