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Man fatally shot during protest in Venezuelan capital: official

© AFP | A demonstrator clashes with the riot police during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on April 20, 2017

CARACAS (AFP) - 

A man was fatally shot on Thursday night during a protest in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, an official said, as deadly unrest continued to roil the oil-rich nation.

"With much pain, I report the death by gunshot of Melvin Guaitan, humble neighborhood worker of Sucre municipality #Petare," wrote Carlos Ocariz, mayor of Sucre municipality, a division of Caracas where the Petare neighborhood is located.

"We demand that the culprits be investigated and punished!" added Ocariz, who opposes the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Ocariz did not elaborate on the details of the shooting: whether Guaitan was taking part in an opposition march or was perhaps just passing by, and whether the shooter was a civilian or a law enforcement officer.

Amid the chaos, 54 children were evacuated from a hospital in Petare. No details were available.

The mayor and prosecutors did not immediately respond to calls from AFP.

Eight other people have died in the last three weeks during anti-Maduro protests, which have virtually always ended in clashes between demonstrators and the authorities.

Unrest was reported Thursday in several parts of Caracas, most seriously in the working-class neighborhood of El Valle. Businesses were attacked, streets blocked and barricades set afire as officers fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters and police helicopters hovered overhead.

Protesters blame Maduro -- heir of the leftist "Bolivarian revolution" launched by the late Hugo Chavez in 1999 -- for an economic crisis marked by severe shortages of food, medicine and basic goods.

Maduro says the protests seeking to oust him are backed by the United States.

The opposition accuses the president of letting state forces and gangs of armed thugs violently repress demonstrators, who have vowed not to flinch in their campaign to oust him.

"I don't care if I inhale gas, I don't care if I die," said Natasha Borges, 17. "We have to put a stop to this murdering, repressing government."

© 2017 AFP