Deaths in Venezuela unrest hit 102 as polarizing vote nears

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Days before a polarizing vote to start rewriting its constitution, Venezuela is convulsing to a rhythm of daytime strikes and nocturnal clashes. The most recent violence drove the death toll from nearly four months of unrest above 100 Thursday.

Most of the dead in anti-government protests that began in early April have been young men killed by gunfire. The toll also includes looters, police allegedly attacked by protesters and civilians killed in accidents related to roadblocks set up during demonstrations.

The count by the county’s chief prosecutor has been highly politicized, with the opposition and other government agencies reporting varying tolls and causes of death that focus blame on the other side.

When Neomar Lander, 17, was rushed bloody and lifeless to a hospital in early June, officials came out within hours to say he had been killed by a homemade bomb he was carrying. Opposition leaders maintained he was hit by a canister of tear gas fired by National Guard troops standing above the bridge where he was found dead.

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“They try to question the humanity of the other side as a political tactic, and I think that ends up discouraging and dismaying people,” said David Smilde, a Tulane University expert on Venezuela.

The protests began following a Supreme Court ruling that stripped the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its remaining powers. Though quickly reversed, the decision ignited a protest movement against socialist President Nicolas Maduro fueled by anger over triple-digit inflation, hours-long lines to buy basic food items and deadly medical shortages.

Addressing a multitude of government supporters dressed in red Thursday, Maduro called on Venezuelans to vote in Sunday’s controversial election for delegates to an assembly that is to rewrite the constitution.

He posed the vote as a choice that Venezuelans must…

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