Caracas: Venezuelan soldiers overseeing demonstrations can open fire if they feel their lives are at risk, says a new regulation published a year after anti-government riots left 43 people dead.
The new rules released Thursday outline procedures for soldiers trying to maintain public order, going up gradually from "imposing presence" to the use of deadly force.
The regulations were published days before the anniversary of the start of antigovernment riots as Venezuelans vented fury over rampant crime, runaway inflation, corruption and shortages of basic goods in the country with the world`s largest proven oil reserves.
Those months of unrest, mainly in Caracas and the city of San Cristobol, generally ended in clashes between hooded demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails at police who answered with tear gas, water cannon and in some cases rubber bullets.
The new rules were quickly met with criticism.
"One can never leave to the discretion of a government official, and even less to a member of security forces, to determine on the spot if they deem their life is in danger," said constitutional lawyer Tulio Alvarez.
Rocio San Miguel, who works with an NGO called Control Ciudadano (Citizen Control) said it is right to regulate how soldiers behave but that the new rule is "dangerously vague and controversial."
In a report released earlier Thursday Human Rights Watch said Venezuelan security forces routinely use force improperly against unarmed demonstrators and passers-by.