At Least 12 People Killed as Night of Riots, Looting and Clashes Erupts in Venezuela

Employees worked on Friday to clean a supermarket that was one of the stores looted overnight in the El Valle neighborhood in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. (Meridith Kohut for The New York Times)

At least a dozen people were killed as the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, erupted into a night of riots, looting and clashes between government opponents and the National Guard late Thursday and early Friday, with anger from two days of pro-democracy demonstrations spilling into unrest in working-class and poor neighborhoods.

The attorney general’s office in Venezuela said 11 people had died of electrocution and gunshot wounds “in acts of violence” in El Valle, a neighborhood of mixed loyalties, where armored vehicles struggled to contain crowds of looters. In Petare, a working-class section in eastern Caracas, a protester was shot dead at the entrance to the city’s largest barrio, said Carlos Ocariz, the district mayor.

Throughout the night, the sounds of banging pots and pans reverberated through the capital, a traditional form of protest known as the “cacerolazo,” which has taken on greater significance as the country struggles with shortages of food.

Liang-Ming Mora, 43, a resident of El Valle, described watching from the window of her high-rise apartment as her neighbors threw objects at National Guardsmen and residents of a nearby area descended onto the streets, burning tires and looting stores.

The crowd, she said, moved through the neighborhood, destroying a large supermarket, a liquor store and other businesses.

“They wanted to loot the bakery, too,” Ms. Mora said, but people shouted, “No, not the bakery, no!” — apparently sparing one of the few places that could still supply the neighborhood with bread.

The clashes are a challenge to Venezuela’s opposition politicians, who have been trying to channel resentment over President Nicolás Maduro’s growing power into a peaceful protest movement. Many thousands of people gathered on Wednesday and Thursday, flooding the capital and parts of other cities, to demand that elections be scheduled.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Nicholas Casey and Patricia Torres