Venezuelan authorities on Friday said they are investigating the deaths of a dozen people, including eight who were reportedly electrocuted as they tried to loot a bakery amid chaotic anti-government protests.
In a statement Friday, the Public Ministry said it was investigating the electrocution and gunshot deaths of 11 people that took place in the working-class neighborhood of El Valle Thursday and Friday. There was an additional death reported east of Caracas in El Sucre.
According to El Universal newspaper, a group of men had broken into the La Mayer del Pan bakery in the El Valle section of the capital when a high-voltage line fell and killed at least eight.
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There was also speculation that the store may have been rigged with an electric-fence type device to prevent theft. Ismael García, an opposition congressman, said the owners of the bakery had been robbed before and had installed “their own security measures” that produced the deaths.
Venezuela is trapped in a deep economic, social and political crisis that features shortages of medicine and food. And looting of grocery stores and food trucks are not uncommon.
The news comes as the nation has been gripped by three weeks of anti-government protests that have left almost a dozen dead on both sides of the political divide. On Friday, opposition leaders blamed the government for repressing protesters with tear gas but standing idly by as businesses were looted. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez pointed the finger at the opposition, saying armed groups controlled by them were responsible for an attack at a hospital.
Protesters are demanding general elections, humanitarian aid, the release of political prisoners and the sacking of judges whom they accuse of trying to dissolve the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
President Nicolás Maduro accuses the opposition of trying to illicitly topple his socialist administration before his term ends in 2019.
On Saturday, the opposition is planning a silent march to acknowledge those who have died during the demonstrations.
Venezuelan groups in South Florida will be joining in, collecting face-masks, first-aid kits and other materials that protesters in Caracas might need. That event will take place from noon to 7:00 p.m. at Paseo de las Artes, 7800, 7812 NW 37th St., Doral.
Associated Press content was used in this report.
Follow Jim Wyss on Twitter: @jimwyss