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Venezuela protest deaths rise to 72 after two killed

Two protesters, both aged 20, died Thursday during anti-government demonstrations in separate regions of Venezuela, bringing the total deaths in more than two months of protests to 72.

AFP| Updated: Jun 16, 2017, 15:05 PM IST

Caracas: Two protesters, both aged 20, died Thursday during anti-government demonstrations in separate regions of Venezuela, bringing the total deaths in more than two months of protests to 72, officials said.

Prosecutors said they were investigating the death of Jose Perez, a student in the western town of Rubio who was "shot in the face" during a demonstration.

The incident occurred when a group of students was attacked by government supporters on motorcycles "who fired 40 shots at random," local council president Walter Chacon said.

Separately, the public ministry said it was investigating the death of Luis Vera in the northwest city of Maracaibo, who was "at a demonstration when he was shot". The 37-year-old gunman was caught and will be brought before a preliminary proceedings court.

Near-daily protests against President Nicolas Maduro began on April 1, with demonstrators demanding his removal and the holding of new elections.

The demonstrations have often turned violent with more than 1,000 people injured so far, prosecutors say, and more than 3,000 arrested, according to the NGO Forum Penal. 

Protesters blame Maduro for an economic crisis that has caused desperate shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods, as well as soaring crime rates.

Maduro says the crisis is a US-backed conspiracy.

He has launched moves to set up an elected assembly to reform the constitution in response to the protests, but his opponents say that is a ploy to cling to power.