Three protestors and one police officer are dead after a wave of anti-government protests in Venezuela turned violent on Wednesday when riot police and plain-clothes officers attacked protestors calling for President Nicolas Maduro’s resignation.
The protest in the capital Caracas was the largest demonstration in two weeks of sporadic protests across the country led by students and opposition activists frustrated with Maduro’s failure to stem inflation, crime, and product shortages.
"All of these problems — shortages, inflation, insecurity, the lack of opportunities — have a single culprit: the government," opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez said in a speech at the protest, Al Jazeera English reported.
About 100,000 Venezuelans attended Wednesday’s protest in Caracas. The violence erupted after most demonstrators had dispersed, and men on motorbikes opened fire on the remaining protestors, according to the BBC.
Meanwhile, Maduro on Wednesday attended another rally in support of his presidency. He called the protestors a “Nazi-fascist faction,” and told state TV, "There will be no coup d'etat in Venezuela, you can be absolutely sure of that.”
By nightfall, protestors had set up burning barricades across the city. Human rights groups condemned the government crackdown, including the arrest of 13 anti-government activists.
The week’s unrest is Venezuela’s worst since anti-Maduro protests erupted after his election last year. Maduro was a close confidant of former President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013 after nearly fifteen-years of autocratic rule.
Venezuela has one of the world’s highest murder and inflation rates, and constant shortages of basic goods. On Feb. 11, activists and newspaper workers protested for U.S. dollars to purchase paper, which is scarce due to import restrictions.
"Freedom of speech is yours, defend it," protestors demanded.
Former BuzzFeed World Reporter, Current BuzzFeed News Contributor