Venezuela protests killed 67 last year: NGO

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A total of 67 people died last year in protests in Venezuela’s ongoing power struggle, 59 of whom were killed by law enforcement and armed civilian groups supporting President Nicolas Maduro, an NGO said Friday.

Most of the deaths took place in January and February 2019 – after opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself acting president, drawing thousands of supporters to the streets in the following months, angered by hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages.

Of those killed, six were victims of “extrajudicial executions” carried out after protesting, the Venezuelan Social Conflict Monitor (OVCS) stated in an annual report.

Another 59 died after being shot by the police, army, and groups loyal to the president, while one died of a heart attack, it said.

The government responded to the demonstrations by implementing “deadly repression as state policy,” OVCS reported.

The group identified 16,739 protests across the country in 2019 – an average of 46 per day.

Most were over issues such as wages and improving social services, and only gathered a handful of protesters.

A year ago, when assembly speaker Guaido launched his challenge to Maduro’s authority by declaring himself acting president, he ultimately earned the backing of more than 50 countries led by the United States.

But Guaido’s momentum waned over the second half of 2019.

Maduro had been reelected president in 2018 in a vote boycotted by much of the opposition and widely dismissed as rigged.

The political end economic crisis under Maduro has sparked the biggest exodus of refugees in Latin American history, with more than 4.5 million fleeing.

Crucially, Maduro retains the support of China, Russia, and the Venezuelan armed forces chiefs - the cornerstone of the political system.

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