Thousands of opposition supporters in Venezuela have blocked roads across the country and set buildings ablaze in fresh anti-government demonstrations amid reports of two more deaths in the mayhem.
The Monday protest rally inside Caracas remained largely peaceful, but fierce clashes were reported between opposition supporters and security forces outside the capital.
A senior opposition legislator, Freddy Guevara, told reporters that Monday’s rallies lasted for 12 hours, adding that 50 roadblocks were planned across the oil-rich nation with the goal of generating a state of “ungovernability” to put further pressure on President Nicolas Maduro.
“This is a day of resistance, of endurance, of showing that we are organized and firm,” Guevara said at the rally in Caracas.
In the western state of Tachira near Venezuela’s border with Colombia, two men were reported dead in separate protest events, including an 18-year-old who was shot in the thorax, according to government prosecutors who did not identify the source of the shooting.
Elsewhere in Tachira, opposition backers threw rocks at riot police and set ablaze an armored vehicle. Several buildings were also set on fire and dozens of people were injured.
In the central state of Carabobo, three police officers were also shot, including one left in critical condition after being struck in the head, local authorities announced.
Local media reports further said that a number of arrests were made during the skirmishes.
The latest casualties brought the number of those reported killed in the unrest since April 1 to at least 40, including a national guardsman and a police officer, with hundreds more reported injured and as many as 2,000 detained.
The center-right opposition blames Maduro for an economic crisis that has led to severe shortages of food and medicine.
The opposition has vowed to step up protest rallies until its demand for early elections is met, but Maduro has shown no signs of conceding to those calls.
Earlier this month, opposition leader and parliament speaker Julio Borges met with US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster in the White House to discuss the Venezuelan crisis.
Maduro has accused the opposition of mounting an “armed insurgency” and “terrorist acts” against his administration with US backing.
His Social Movements Minister Aristobulo Isturiz also stated on Monday that protesters were “demanding the impossible” by seeking early elections.
"That is why they are intensifying their violence with the support of the international oligarchy and imperialism," he said.