CARACAS — Security forces and protesters fought around Venezuela on Thursday in streets blocked by burning barricades and a supporter of socialist President Nicolas Maduro was shot dead, the sixth fatality from more than a week of violence.
Maduro said a "fascist bullet" killed Alexis Martinez, a brother of a ruling Socialist Party legislator, in the central city of Barquisimeto. A local journalist said Martinez was shot in the chest while passing an opposition protest.
There have also been scores of injuries and arrests since the violence broke out eight days ago, the most serious unrest since Maduro was narrowly elected in April 2013.
The protesters, mostly students, want Maduro to resign, and blame his government for violent crime, high inflation, shortages of goods and alleged repression of opponents.
The most sustained clashes on Thursday were in the western Andean states of Tachira and Merida, which have been especially volatile since hardline opposition leaders called supporters onto the streets in early February.
In Tachira state capital San Cristobal, which some residents are describing as a "war zone," many businesses remained shut as students and police faced off again in barricaded streets. With some residents saying they dared not leave their homes because of the violence, the government said it was taking "special measures" to restore order there.
Tensions have escalated since opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, turned himself in to troops this week. He is being held in Caracas' Ramo Verde military jail on charges of fomenting the violence.
Local TV channels are providing almost no live coverage of the unrest, so Venezuelans are turning to social media to swap information and images. Falsified photos are also circulating.
Protest leaders say soldiers and pro-government armed community groups known as "colectivos" are sometimes shooting at demonstrators, while officials say sharpshooters are targeting pro-Maduro rallies from rooftops and elsewhere.
Maduro, elected last year to succeed socialist leader Hugo Chavez, says Lopez and "small fascist groups" are in league with the U.S. government and want a coup.
He has been sharply critical of international media coverage, and on Thursday he warned CNN it risked being kicked out of the country if it did not "rectify" its ways.
MIGUEL GUTIERREZ / EPA
A man is wrapped in the Venezuelan flag as he stands close to a fire at a barricade during a protest against Venezuelan government in Altamira, Caracas, Venezuela, 20 February 2014.
First published February 20 2014, 7:18 PM