At least 55 Venezuelans have died during protests against Nicolás Maduro’s socialist dictatorship since April 5, according to official tallies. Venezuelan media claim the number is much higher, however, tallying up 71 dead, among them over one dozen teens as young as 14.
Venezuela’s Attorney General’s office places the number of deaths since the Supreme Court attempted to annul the National Assembly in March at 55. The Argentine newspaper Clarín, citing the government as well, reported Thursday morning that 58 people had died in anti-government protests. The Venezuelan independent website Runrunes says the number is much higher, however.
Runrunes is keeping a running tally of the number of protest-related deaths in the country since April 1. As of Thursday afternoon, they have profiled 71 Venezuelans who have been killed either protesting the government or, in very few cases, serving in Maduro’s army or police. The website explains the disparity:
The Runrunes list registers 13 more cases than the Attorney General. This difference is due to the statistics including five people who died in El Valle on April 20. Their names were on the list of bodies at the University Hospital following events in that region south of Caracas, and the families of at least two of them spoke to us and offered the details of their relatives and what happened to them.
The Runrunes list largely corresponds to the Attorney General’s, however, and features an astonishingly young list of names and violent list of deaths. The average age of those killed whose ages are listed is 27. Fourteen of the fallen were teens. The youngest was a boy named Bryan David Principal Giménez, 14, who was shot to death by socialist paramilitary gangs known as colectivos while trying to buy coffee.
Other notable deaths include those killed in a looting incident at “La Mayer del Pan” bakery in late April, in El Valle. Ten people died in the bakery while attempting to steal a coffee pot full of water, according to the owner. Amid the chaos, the water splashed onto the starved mob and electrocuted them. The youngest victim, Yorgeiber Rafael Barrena Bolívar, was 15.
Most deaths were the result of shootings by colectivos or the use of tear gas or rubber bullets by the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB). In one incident, GNB soldiers used an armored tank to run over and kill unarmed protesters who refused to move from a major Caracas highway.
Lootings are common in Venezuela, as socialist economic policies – particularly, the strict price controls, food rationing, and military control of the food supply – have left most Venezuelans unable to procure three meals a day. Most Venezuelans lost 19 pounds in 2016 due to failure to find enough food to maintain their weight; an estimated 15 percent of Venezuelans survive by eating garbage.
The most recent death – Adrián José Duque Bravo, 23 – occurred on Wednesday, May 24, at the hands of the GNB in Zulia state.
The opposition leadership, of which many members are allied to the Socialist International, have called for daily protests for the past 54 days to demand freedom for political prisoners and new presidential elections.
The Venezuelan people appear to be demanding more, however, in places like Barinas state, the homeland of Hugo Chávez. This week, protesters there burned down Chávez’s childhood home and that of his grandmother, as well as attempting to burn down a number of government buildings and the headquarters of Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). At least eight people have died in Barinas, all men whose known ages are between 19 and 24.
While the grand majority of those killed were either bystanders or peaceful protesters, not government employees or soldiers, Maduro’s government continues to blame the opposition for the violence. “The extreme right has entered another macabre phase,” vice president of the PSUV Diosdado Cabello said on television this week. “They are using boys and girls, the youth as human shields. That is a crime against humanity and the NGOs should keep watch.” The government has repeatedly referred to the anti-socialist opposition as “terrorists.”