Protesters set fire to late President Hugo Chavez's childhood home in western Venezuela on Monday, an opposition lawmaker said, as protests against the South American nation's socialist government grew increasingly hostile.
While demonstrators are decrying current President Nicolas Maduro for the country's triple-digit inflation, rising crime and shortages of food and medicine, they have also destroyed at least five statues commemorating Chavez, Maduro's mentor and the founder of Venezuela's "Bolivarian revolution."
Demonstrators lit the house in the city of Barinas where Chavez spent his early years aflame Monday afternoon along with several government buildings, including the regional office of the National Electoral Council, said Pedro Luis Castillo, a legislator who represents the area.
The burnings capped a violent day in Barinas — known as the cradle of Chavez's revolution — during which protesters clashed with national guardsmen, businesses were shuttered and roads were blocked with fire-filled barricades.
Nineteen-year-old Yorman Bervecia was shot and killed during a protest, according to the nation's chief prosecutor. His death brings to at least 49 the number killed in nearly two months of anti-government protests demanding new elections.
"It is pretty symbolic that the citizens are venting their frustrations on the author of the Bolivarian revolution," said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas.
The street clashes engulfing Venezuela appear to be turning increasingly violent, with both security forces and youth protesters looking more unruly.
Residents of Caracas awoke to several smoldering barricades made of trash and torn-down street signs. Access to the capital's downtown was blocked at several points by heavily armed security forces looking to prevent a march to the Health Ministry to demand Maduro open a so-called humanitarian corridor for the delivery of medicine and food aid.
On the outskirts of Caracas, where reports of nighttime protests and looting have become more frequent, the situation was even more tense: Young men with their faces covered or wearing gas masks put down barbed wire at roadblocks every few blocks and menacingly asked bystanders for contributions to their "Resistance" movement.
Maduro accused protesters Sunday of setting fire to a government supporter, saying what he calls "Nazi-fascist" elements are taking root inside the opposition's ranks and contributing to a dangerous spiral of violence in the two-month anti-government protest movement.
Maduro said that 21-year-old Orlando Zaragoza suffered burns to almost all his body when he was doused with gasoline and set on fire at a protest in Caracas a day earlier. Videos circulating on social media show a man covered in flames fleeing a small mob. Maduro said he was being treated.
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