Anti-government protests in Venezuela have led to the deaths of five people, it was announced on Saturday, as the South American country entered its third week of violence. The protests began in response to a ban by the Supreme Court of opposition leader Henrique Capriles.
The deaths include 36-year-old Miguel Colmenares who was shot during a demonstration on Tuesday and 32-year-old Gruseny Calderon who was shot by a rubber bullet at the same protest. The other three deaths included two university students as well as a 13-year-old.
The violence follows the opposition coalition which leads the country's National Assembly, The Democratic Union Roundtable, bid to open a political trial against President Nicolas Maduro last year. More recently, as tensions mounted, the Supreme Court which backs Maduro, decided to remove legislative powers from the national assembly, leading to accusations that Maduro had effectively seized dictatorial powers.
The decision was reversed after a massive backlash in the international community. However, this did not stop them from banning opposition leader Henrique Capriles from holding public office for 15 years.
With Maduro's approval ratings dropping below 20%, the opposition called for the significant number of its coalition's supporters to rise up against that decision. Protests then began to break out in middle-class areas, spreading across slums outside of Caracas.
Tensions in the country have arisen largely as a result of an economic crisis which has left the country with the highest rate of inflation in the world. The country is divided between those who support the socialist policies of late President Hugo Chavez, who was succeeded by Maduro, and those who believe the United Socialist Party is responsible not only for the diabolical economic situation and also a dictatorial regime.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Sir Alan Duncan tweeted of his concern on Thursday. He wrote: "concerned by violence & loss of life in #Venezuela. Urge all to act responsibly. Govt should address legitimate demands of Venezuelan people."