CARACAS – The Venezuelan Public Ministry reported on Thursday the death of a 22-year-old man who was shot during an opposition demonstration on the Francisco Fajardo Highway, the main traffic artery in Caracas.
The authorities “will investigate death of David Vallenilla (22), who was shot during demonstration in Altamira,” said the ministry, without providing further details, on Twitter.
With this latest fatality, the government now says that 75 people have died in the ongoing wave of often violent pro- and anti-government protests besetting the country since April 1.
An EFE reported verified that Vallenilla was shot twice at point-blank range by a government security officer wielding a rifle designed to fire rubber bullets.
The mayor of the Caracas municipality of Chacao, opposition figure Ramon Muchacho, said – also on Twitter – that Vallenilla was coming from the highway, where dozens of demonstrators, most of them masked, had confronted security forces, who fired on them from inside the La Carlota military base.
Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles also said on Twitter that Vallenilla was “murdered at point-blank range by the minions” of President Nicolas Maduro.
During the clashes, several people were injured, EFE was able to determine, although it is not known if their injuries were the result of rubber bullets or other projectiles.
The demonstrators breached a portion of the fence enclosing the airbase and were repelled by the Bolivarian National Guard, Venezuela’s militarized police, with tear gas, although they later regrouped.
Meanwhile, Maduro said Thursday that the government and the opposition have been maintaining an ongoing “secret” dialogue via emissaries and he asked opposition members to establish a new open “agenda” for the talks.
“We are in ongoing contact with leaders of the opposition, but those contacts are secret. I am authorizing them to continue. We have a dialogue, but it’s secret, ‘under wraps,’” the president said during a press conference at Miraflores Palace.
Maduro, who offered no further details about the conversations, said that he wanted “a dialogue with an agenda” such as the one conducted last November when – with the mediation of a group of former presidents and The Vatican – a set of negotiations between the government and the opposition were carried out.