At least eight Venezuelans have reportedly been electrocuted to death when a group of looters broke into a bakery in the capital Caracas on Friday (21 April). Reports of casualties come amid protests taking place across the country to oust President Nicolas Maduro, who has been accused of taking the country towards a dictatorship.
According to a firefighter, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, the group of looters stormed into the La Mayer del Pan bakery, located in the working class neighbourhood of El Valle in Caracas. Local media reports suggested that the victims died after a high-voltage line fell on them.
However, there is no official information on the number of casualties.
Venezuelan authorities have launched an investigation into the deaths of some victims of electrocution, the public prosecutor's office said late on Friday. Officials are also looking into the deaths of 11 protesters who died of gunshots during chaotic anti-government protests overnight, in the El Valle region.
Looting of grocery stores and food trucks due to shortage of food and medical supplies have been a common occurrence in Venezuela. The country has been trapped in a deep economic, political and social crisis over the past one year.
Nine other people have been killed from both sides of the political divide in violence related to anti-government rallies, where protesters clashed with security forces.
Opposition vs Maduro — the blame game
Opposition leaders have accused the ruling Socialist Party of using tear gas against the protesters as Maduro resists the "mother of all marches". Opposition groups are demanding that Maduro quit and hold a fresh election in the country this year. They have vowed to continue protesting until Maduro meets their demands, including releasing 100 political prisoners and respecting the autonomy of the Congress, which the opposition controls.
However, the socialist government has accused ideological adversaries in the US of supporting the protests. The unpopular president has often blamed Washington of trying to stage a coup in Venezuela to oust him.
"This wounded and failed opposition is trying to generate chaos in key areas of the city and convince the world that we're in some sort of civil war, the same playbook used for Syria, for Libya and for Iraq," Socialist Party official Freddy Bernal said in an internet broadcast at 1am local time on Saturday (22 April).
Opposition parties have called for a white-clad "silent" protest across Caracas city on Saturday (22 April) in remembrance of those killed in the unrest this week.
A nationwide "sit-in" is also being planned for Monday when demonstrators plan to block all main roads in the country.