Anti-government protestors clashed with Venezuelan security forces and pro-administration gangs Wednesday, turning what was supposed to be a massive peaceful march into a chaotic scene of tear gas and hurled debris that left at least two dead and cast a shadow over the future of the beleaguered South American nation.
Even before the last protestors had made it home Wednesday night, the opposition was calling for more protests on Thursday, as it tries to force the socialist administration to call new elections.
Violence struck early in the day Wednesday, when a 17-year-old boy was shot dead in the Caracas neighborhood of San Bernardino as opposition protestors were gathering for what was being called the “mother of all marches.” Local media reported that a 23-year-old woman was also murdered in the border state of Táchira.
As protestors tried to punch into downtown Caracas to deliver a list of their demands, which include general elections, security forces threw up barricades and broke up the crowds with tear gas.
Isabella Antica, 48, had huddled on a side street after the Bolivarian National Guard had rushed the group she was protesting with.
“We were marching without weapons, peacefully,” she said. “The [guards] came after us and kept following us, shooting tear gas canisters at us and we were trapped … This is an injustice.”
In downtown Caracas, President Nicolás Maduro held his own rally, telling thousands of red-clad supporters that they had helped stop a Washington-backed coup.
“We have triumphed once again,” he said. “Glory be to this brave country.”