Beaten & torched: Protester describes violence at Venezuela riots

A government supporter set on fire during opposition riots in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, is in a coma suffering from severe burns and stab wounds, his doctor told RT. Another man was also injured by rioters who were apparently trying to kill him.

Opposition supporters clash with riot security forces in Caracas, Venezuela, May 18, 2017. © Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Gruesome footage of a man named Orlando Figuera, 21, was broadcast on state television this weekend. It shows dozens of people at an anti-government demonstration in Caracas surrounding the man, dousing him with gasoline, and setting him on fire in Plaza Altamira in the east of city.

“He received six wounds in the torso with burns over 54 percent of his body surface, both second and third degree,” Alexis Parra Soler, a doctor treating Figuera, told RT.

Horrifying images from the scene show Figuera running while nearly naked with flames on his back. “A person was set on fire, beaten up, stabbed... They nearly lynched him, just because he shouted out that he was a ‘Chavista,’” said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, referring to supporters of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela established by late leader Hugo Chavez.

Speaking on state TV, Maduro described the torching as “a hate crime and a crime against humanity.” The 21-year-old victim, who sustained heavy injuries, severe burns, and stab wounds, was taken to intense care.

Another victim named Carlos Ramirez was also hunted down by rioters who were apparently trying to kill him. “I told them I’m not a Chavista, but they said of course I am, so I had to die” Ramirez told RT at a hospital.

“They started to hit me, and after I collapsed to the ground, they threw a Molotov cocktail at me,” the man said.

Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas reacted by tweeting: “Growing insanity. A human being is set on fire at a ‘peaceful demonstration’ by the opposition in Caracas.”

At least 50 people have been killed, including bystanders and members of the security forces, during several weeks of anti-government rallies, according to Reuters. 

Lynchings have also become common, as opposition rallies quickly turn violent. Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol described the rioters’ actions as “acts of terrorism,” while suggesting that the provocateurs have links to organized crime.

“[The riots] show how the terrorist right maintains close relationships with criminals to commit these acts,” he said on Twitter.

In turn, the opposition accuses Maduro of being a “dictator” and wrecking the nation’s economy. They are demanding that he step down as president. Riots have been breaking out as Venezuela’s economy has slid into a deep crisis. Recently, the International Monetary Fund warned that the country’s currency was rapidly losing value, with monetary inflation at 720 percent, the worst in the world, according to the Financial Times

In response, Maduro has lashed out at the US and its Venezuelan sympathizers, who he says are exploiting economic hardship to bring unrest and violence into the country. “Enough meddling ... Go home, Donald Trump. Get out of Venezuela,” Maduro said in a speech broadcasted on TV, as cited by Reuters. “Get your dirty hands out of here,” he urged.

“The extreme positions of a government just starting off only confirmed the discriminatory, racist, xenophobic, and genocidal nature of US elites against humanity and its own people, which has now been heightened by this new administration, which asserts white Anglo-Saxon supremacy,” the statement read, as cited by Reuters.

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Chavista Community Organizer Killed, Burned by Paramilitaries

Elizabeth Aguilera was killed in retaliation for her work against organized crime in Venezuela.

A community activist and local leader of Venezuela's Socialist Party was killed by alleged members of a paramilitary gang in Caracas, according to a party spokesman.

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Elizabeth Aguilera, was the head of her local unit of the PSUV, the ruling party headed by President Nicolas Maduro.

Aguilera was shot multiple times in the Cota 905 sector, a popular area in the south-center of the Venezuelan capital. Her body was also burned and photographs were posted on social networks, presumably by Aguilera's murderers.

The crime was confirmed by an official from the district government, Daniel Aponte, who said the attack was perpetrated by a "paramilitary group."

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“Justice will be done, the PSUV party expresses its total solidarity,” said Aponte, who called Aguilera a fighter, a committed Chavista, and a community leader.

According to police officers, the perpetraitors fled the Sucre neighborhood when a unit from the federal anti-paramility squad, called Operation Liberation and Protection of the People or OLP, came to the area. The OLP was created to fight violence and paramilitary groups in the country, especially in the wake of paramilitary violence that led to the closure of Venezuela's border with Colombia.

Police say Aguilera was likely targetted because she was providing information to police on crime in her neighborhood.

The area where the murder occurred is said to dominated by a criminal outfit headed by an individual called "Coki," who is estimated to have at least 120 men under his command. The group is accused of vehicle theft, kidnapping, extortion and murder.

According to the newspaper El Nacional, residents of various communities in Cota 905 acted as confidential informants to identify and pinpoint the location of several criminals who were subsequently targetted the OLP in July 2015.

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