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More deaths in Venezuela as anti-Maduro protesters threaten airbase

More deaths in Venezuela as anti-Maduro protesters threaten airbase

<p>Venezuelan troops on Thursday (June 22) fired what appeared to be rubber bullets at protesters as they attacked the perimeter of an airbase, and a demonstrator was killed, bringing the death toll to at least 76 in unrest since April. </p> <p>At least two soldiers shot long firearms through the fence at protesters from a distance of just a few feet. One man collapsed to the ground and was carried off by other protesters, television footage showed. Paramedics took at least two other injured people to a hospital, a Reuters witness said. </p> <p>The protesters began attacking the fence outside La Carlota airbase in the wealthy east of Caracas when security forces broke up a march destined for the attorney general’s office. <br /> A man identified as David Jose Vallenilla, 22, died after arriving at a hospital in the Chacao municipality where the protest happened, the mayor said.<br /> Opposition lawmaker Jose Manuel Olivares said Vallenilla had been killed by the national guard firing rubber bullets at point blank range and criticized the shooting as repression.</p> <p>“The troops found responsible for crimes will be presented before the law,” said Interior Minister Nesto Reverol, calling on the opposition to stop violent protests. </p> <p>Vallenilla suffered wounds to the lungs and heart, a doctor who attended him told Reuters. Reuters could not independently confirm that Vallenilla was the shooting victim shown in television footage.</p> <p>Venezuela’s national guard is a wing of the military charged with internal public order. It mainly uses tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to control protests that frequently escalate into riots. <br /> Despite volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets, a small group of protesters throwing petrol bombs and powerful fireworks from behind flimsy homemade shields was able to rip down a section of the fence surrounding the airbase. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets over the past months to protest a clampdown on the opposition, shortages of food and medicine and President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to overhaul the constitution. Maduro says the violence is part of a foreign-led plot to overthrow his government.</p>