Venezuelan student killed by National Guard tear gas canister

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   May 25, 2017 at 8:10 AM
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May 25 (UPI) -- Venezuela's Chief Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz said a 20-year-old student who died during a protest was killed by a tear gas canister fired at his chest by security forces.

Ortega Díaz said Juan Pablo Pernalete died from cardiogenic shock due to chest trauma resulting from the tear gas canister striking the left side of his chest on April 26. She said the Bolivarian National Guard, or GNB, officer responsible has not been identified.

During a press conference late Wednesday, Ortega Díaz increased the death toll in Venezuela's protests to 55 people.

Several officials working for President Nicolas Maduro's regime, including Information Minister Ernesto Villegas, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and Diosdado Cabello, leader of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, all rejected allegations the GNB was responsible.

Ortega Díaz said 19 police and military officials so far have been charged with crimes including homicide; cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; improper use of a weapon; unlawful deprivation of liberty; and violation of property. She said 18 other arrest warrants have not yet materialized.

Ortega Díaz said her Public Ministry has 16 open investigations against groups of armed civilians accused of breaking the law and inciting violence. She also said more than 500 people have been injured in the protests, resulting in "violations of fundamental rights" as more than half of those injuries came from the use of force by Venezuelan security forces, which are also accused of looting.

The death toll may have increased to 56 due to the death of 23-year-old Adrián José Duque Bravo in Maracaibo, the capital of the Zulia state, late Wednesday.

Ortega Díaz said a group of protesters in Maracaibo, including Duque, were protesting "when officials from the Bolivarian National Guard came to restore public order."

"Shortly after, there began an irregular situation in which Duque was injured after receiving a shot -- the reason why was transferred to Hospital Chiquinquirá, where he died shortly after," Ortega Díaz said.

Venezuela has faced nearly daily protests for about two months. Though there have been some demonstrations in support of Maduro's regime, most are anti-government demonstrations decrying the country's economic collapse under Maduro's government and what the opposition says is the deterioration of democracy and the violent repression of peaceful protesters at the hands of Venezuelan security forces.

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