Spiraling Venezuela Violence a Double-Edged Sword

Spiraling Venezuela Violence a Double-Edged SwordSpiraling Venezuela Violence a Double-Edged Sword

A young man set ablaze by protesters in Caracas. Looting, destruction and 57 people dead.

Both the Venezuelan government and the opposition admit that violent protests that have gripped the country for nearly two months are out of control and analysts warn they could be a double-edged sword that might trigger even more unrest.

“We condemn violence wherever it comes from,” Attorney General Luisa Ortega said on Thursday.

Nominally an ally of socialist President Nicolas Maduro, Ortega is now the highest-profile public official to criticize the authorities during the protests against him, AFP reported.

The government blames its opponents–some armed with stones and Molotov cocktails–for the clashes. But opposition protesters say they must defend themselves from tear gas and even bullets.

“If they let us march, we wouldn’t do anything,” said 19 year-old Alejandro, who belongs to a group of hooded youths opposed to Maduro.

“But they attack first so we throw rocks and bottles,” he told AFP.

Maduro says that his moves to draft a new constitution will bring “peace”. He called on the opposition again late on Thursday to sit down with the government within the framework of a “constituent assembly” to be elected in July and tasked with drafting a new constitution.

The burning of 21-year-old Orlando Figuera–beaten, doused in fuel and set alight in a recent Caracas protest–highlights the country’s descent into chaos.

The prosecutor investigating the incident dubbed it “nightmarish”, blasting videos that appear to have been “manipulated to favor one of the sides in the dispute” as “vulgar”.

The government says Figuera was attacked for being a Maduro supporter. The opposition, which has also condemned the incident, says members of the crowd had accused him of “stealing”.

The public prosecution service said in a new report on Thursday that the death toll stands at 57 after some eight weeks of demonstrations demanding general elections to remove Maduro.

Protesters brand the socialist president a dictator, accusing him of causing economic turmoil and food shortages.

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