A young Venezuelan protester who was set ablaze during a demonstration has died in hospital. The South American country has been gripped by near-daily protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Orlando Figuera died in hospital on Sunday, two weeks after he was set on fire at an anti-government protest in eastern Caracas, the state prosecutor’s office said on Twitter.
The 22-year-old is the 65th fatality in weeks of unrest. More than a thousand people have been injured.
Protesters blame Socialist President Nicolas Maduro for the political and economic crisis plaguing the country, which is suffering crippling shortages of food and medicines. Many are also angry about the government’s plan to push ahead with a referendum to elect a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.
Maduro announced the controversial move in May, saying it would help restore peace to the oil-rich nation. But the opposition accuses him of trying to hold onto power by packing the planned assembly with his allies. They want him to instead hold early elections.
Vote date proposed
The head of the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, on Sunday said the government was hoping to hold the referendum on July 30. That proposed date must be approved by the Supreme Electoral Council.
The opposition responded to the decision by calling for a “sit-in” along Venezuela’s main roads on Monday.
“If Tibisay pushes a date, we push street protests,” opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara wrote on Twitter. “This (June 5), 12 hours of resistance! No to the fraud that is this constituent assembly!”
The Socialist government and the opposition have also traded blame over Orlando Figuera’s killing. The young man was beaten and stabbed before being doused in petrol and set alight during a protest on May 20. He suffered first and second degree burns to 80 percent of his body, officials said.
Maduro called the death a hate crime, saying that Figuera was targeted because he supported the government and had dark skin.
“He was the victim of an attack by fascists,” Maduro said on his weekly television show. “How far will they go?”
But the opposition, which condemned the incident, said members of the crowd had accused him of “stealing.”
Lynchings and mob violence have become increasingly common in Venezuela, with a breakdown in security leading many to take justice into their own hands.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said all Venezuelans wanted justice for “Orlando and all the dead and wounded. The main guilty party: Nicolas Maduro.”
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, expressed his condolences for Figuera’s family on Twitter, saying “Venezuela doesn’t deserve this much pain.”
Almagro, who has been a vocal critic of President Maduro, on Saturday blasted Venezuela’s electoral council and its head Tibisay Lucena, saying they were complicit in the country’s crisis. He said the government’s proposed assembly was “illegitimate, unconstitutional and fraudulent.”
nm/jm (Reuters, AFP, EFE, dpala)