CARACAS – Venezuela is bracing for a second round of mass anti-government protests on Thursday, a day after huge rallies across the South American nation led to clashes in which three were killed, dozens injured and hundreds arrested.
On Wednesday, public prosecutors reported the death of a 17-year-old boy in the capital Caracas and of a 23-year-old woman in eastern Tachira state, while the head of the country's moral council, Tarek Saab, announced the death of a national guardsman.
"Same place, same time," was the rallying call from Miranda state governor and opposition figurehead Henrique Capriles late on Wednesday evening, calling for millions of Venezuelans to mobilize again a day after what has been widely dubbed as "the mother of all marches."
Anti-government protesters and politicians have accused President Nicolas Maduro of sliding towards dictatorship, while officials in the socialist government have claimed demonstrators were attempting a violent coup d'état.
The political crisis in Venezuela was exacerbated after the Supreme Court assumed the executive powers of the opposition in earlier this month.
Venezuelan authorities seize General Motors factory amid deepening turmoil.
A government U-turn on the move failed to quell the violent opposition protests that swiftly followed.
The number of people killed in the political unrest has now risen to eight, including the national guardsman, and thousands of arrests have been made in the space of three weeks.
The director of the Venezuelan Criminal Forum, Alfredo Romero, told EFE on Wednesday that the lawyers who advise on the number of those arrested were constantly updating and verifying the figures in the capital, as well as in the 23 states of Venezuela, as "too many cases had been registered in only one day."
The lawyer explained that 16 of these arrests took place in Caracas, 69 in Anzoategui state, 57 in Bolivar, 40 in Cojedes, 37 in Falcon, 16 in Barinas, 32 in Tachira, 31 in Carabobo and 24 in Portuguesa, stressing that there were still more cases in other regions of the country.
The mayor of the municipality of Chacao, in Caracas, said that the hospitals in his jurisdiction were taking care of 57 people "from the demonstration," who unsuccessfully tried to reach the Ombudsman's Office in the center of the Venezuelan capital.
Of these, 33 people had multiple injuries, 10 with asphyxiation symptoms "as a result of tear gas" used by the police forces to disperse the protest, and 14 with "fainting and stress-related problems," according to Muchaco, who belongs to the opposition.
"Everyone is out of danger," Muchaco said on his Twitter account.
The two people killed apparently were not participating in the demonstrations and were shot by unknown perpetrators, according to preliminary information.
Venezuela's executive vice president Tareck el Aissami rejected accusations by opposition groups who blame the Maduro's government for the deaths of the two people amid the demonstrations.