Teen killed as Venezuela army chief urges troops not to hurt protesters

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Caracas (AFP) – A teenager died in new protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government on Wednesday just as the head of the military warned troops not to commit “atrocities.”

The warning by General Vladimir Padrino Lopez, who is also Maduro’s defense minister, came after more than two months of violent clashes between protesters and security forces.

The opposition and a press rights group say security forces have attacked, robbed and run over protesters and journalists.

Fresh clashes erupted Wednesday as thousands of protesters tried to march to the offices of the electoral authority from various points of the capital.

A 17-year-old boy was killed during a march in the Chacao district in eastern Caracas, taking the overall death toll since the beginning of April to 66, according to prosecutors.

The circumstances of the boy’s death was being investigated, the public ministry said. Opposition leaders said security forces were to blame.

On Monday, videos published on social media had appeared to show security forces attacking and robbing people of their belongings.

“I do not want to see any more guards committing atrocities in the street,” Padrino said in a public address on Tuesday.

“Whoever departs from state policy, which gives pre-eminence to respect for human rights, and who acts unprofessionally, will have to answer for it.”

Opposition congressional speaker Julio Borges said ahead of Wednesday’s protest: “We call on Padrino Lopez to make good on his word and let the march go ahead peacefully.”

But as previously, riot police dispersed the demos with tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets. Some demonstrators hurled petrol bombs and rocks.

The opposition-controlled legislature has accused Interior Minister Nestor Reverol of being responsible for the “repression” of protesters.

Reverol has been hit by US sanctions for alleged involvement in drug-trafficking.

Maduro’s opponents are protesting to demand early elections to remove him from power. They blame him for a desperate economic crisis.

“We have to stay in the street until Maduro negotiates his departure or the military withdraws its support for him,” senior opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara said on Wednesday.

Maduro says the crisis is a US-backed conspiracy and brands the protesters insurgents and terrorists.

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