A young man who was taking part in a protest against the Venezuelan government was killed by gunshot on Wednesday morning. Witnesses told Fox News the protester was lying on a pool of blood after he was shot in the neck and forehead.
The man was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died during surgery. He was identified by El Nacional as 17-year-old Carlos José Moreno Baron.
"A ‘colectivo’ [pro-government armed group] arrived and started shooting,” the witness said. “People responded with stones. A couple of motorcyclists, both wearing red, shot to the crowd and hit the boy,” said the witness, who requested anonymity.
“Some people left [the march], but most stayed and kept walking, albeit their mood was visibly low.”
Venezuela's chief prosecutor said she is investigating the shooting incident amid conflicting reports over the cause of death.
Top officials claim the boy was assaulted while walking home from a soccer game, but the director of Hospital Clinicas Caracas where the teen was taken told Fox News there was no doubt the boy came from a rally concentration in western Caracas.
"He came with vital signs, but those wounds have a high mortality rate," said Dr. Amadeo Leiva. "He was in San Bernardino, in a point of concentration of the opposition and he was shot by men on motorcycles."
The ‘mother of all marches’ kicked off at 10 a.m. ET from 26 designated points of Caracas, with the goal of meeting up at the Ombudsman's Office to demand full respect for the opposition-controlled Parliament and an electoral timetable to replace the embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
In different points of the city, protesters started off the day burning effigies of Maduro, the handpicked successor of late President Hugo Chavez whose socialist rule is blamed for the crippling economic crisis.
“Tomorrow begins a new stage of the struggle, which will not stop until we have elections," said the opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Tuesday.
Some of the demostrators hit the streets equipped with Malox (an antacid that reduces the effect of the tear gas), bicarbonate in water, gloves to return bombs and some will wear masks.
“We just want to assert our rights," he said.
Wednesday’s events are the culmination of a violent wave of protests started on April 1, triggered by the Supreme Court's decision to strip the legislature of its last remaining powers.
Six people have died, dozens injured and more than 200 have been detained in the latest spark of violence.
On Tuesday evening, Maduro activated “Plan Zamora,” a military, police and civilian operation aimed at defeating an alleged coup against him "operated by the U.S. State Department and the Venezuelan right."
"Attention: Activate the green phase of Plan Zamora to defeat the coup d'etat, the escalation of violence under the military, police and civil structure of the state," the president said, addressing the Armed Forces in a meeting with the high political and military command.
In addition to “Plan Zamora,” President Maduro is counting on the "unconditional support" of hundreds of thousands militiamen — civilians loyal to the government who have been handed Russian rifles for the "defense of the country."
Congressman Diosdado Cabello, a powerful Chavista leader, has warned the opposition demonstrators won’t reach their destination and announced a counter rally of more than 60,000 motorcyclists that will make their way from Petare, east of the city, to downtown Caracas. Along the route, there will be a couple of exit points that will intersect with the opposition rally.
"They won’t enter Caracas, don’t provoke us,” Cabello warned. “Be careful if, we may go there (to the opposition protest)."
Alex Vasquez is a freelance reporter living in Caracas, Venezuela.