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Three Venezuelans died from gunshot wounds during protests against socialist President
Nicolas Maduro, witnesses and local media said on Saturday, pushing the death toll from
almost two months of anti-government demonstrations to 34.
Troops briefly clashed with a small group of protesters who attempted to block a highway
in an upscale neighborhood of Caracas after thousands of opposition sympathizers marched
to demand the release of students imprisoned during the unrest.
Demonstrators complaining of soaring prices and product shortages have vowed to remain
in the streets until Maduro resigns, although there are few signs that the country's worst
turmoil in a decade will force him from office. Argenis Hernandez, 26, was shot in the abdomen
as he was demonstrating near a barricade in the central city of Valencia and died early
on Saturday in a nearby hospital, according to local media reports.
A motorcyclist attempted to cross the barricade and opened fire on demonstrators when they
would not let him through, wounding Hernandez. Bus driver Wilfredo Rey, 31, died on Friday
night after being shot in the head during a confrontation between demonstrators and
hooded gunmen in the western city of San Cristobal, according to local residents.
Rey had not been involved in the protests, they said.
Forty-year-old Jesus Labrador was hit by a bullet on Saturday in the Andean city of Merida
during a shoot-out between armed protesters burning tires and hooded gunmen on motorcycles,
according to a resident of the area. Labrador died minutes after arriving at the
hospital. Four others suffered bullet wounds in the incident.
The protests began in February with sporadic demonstrations by university students. They
intensified after three people were killed following a February 12 rally in downtown
Caracas. Jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez called
on Maduro to resign in a letter read by his wife at a rally.
"Maduro, if you resign, you will open a path toward peace for Venezuelans," wrote Lopez,
who was jailed last month on charges including instigating violence after helping turn the
protests into a national movement. "The solution is in your hands."
A group of demonstrators later gathered near Plaza Altamira, which has been a hot spot
of opposition protests, but the National Guard dispersed them with tear gas.