Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) — Violent clashes this week between anti-government protesters and security forces in Venezuela led to at least four deaths and hundreds of injuries. But one protester who was injured in the clashes said protesters would keep up the pressure to force President Nicolas Maduro to step down.
On Tuesday, Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido called on his supporters to take to the streets in mass demonstrations, as his months-long effort to oust Maduro appeared to be gathering force.
But by Thursday, Maduro, who has faced months of protests over the country’s economic collapse and his consolidation of power, appeared on state television and again derided what he has called a U.S.-backed coup and vowed to combat “traitors.”
Eva Anato, a middle school teacher in Caracas, said she was struck in the face by pellets after participating in the mass protests on Wednesday.
“It was like war. Everyone was shot,” Anato told ABC News.
But she added that even though people are frightened, the protests would continue.
“A lot of people expect so much” from Guaido, she said. “[But] this is not a one-day thing.”
Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, was sworn in as interim president by that body in January. He was immediately recognized by the U.S. and ultimately 53 other countries as the legitimate leader.
Anato, 49, said that after a day of protest on Wednesday, she was on her way home with a small group that included two of her nieces, a former student and two other people. The group was intercepted by Maduro supporters, who began shooting pellets at the crowd, Anato said. Chaos broke out as one woman started screaming that the National Guard was approaching, she said.
“When I felt the first shot, I said, ‘My God, I’m dying,’ because I felt all the blood immediately on my face,” Anato told ABC News. “I felt the next shot immediately after. I was screaming. We were screaming, ‘God help us!’ … The guy with me was bleeding a lot from his head. I thought they had killed him. It was horrible.”
She said that the group took shelter in a parking lot trench. But when the group attempted to escape from the trench, they were met with tear gas, said Anato, who fell and fractured her knee. She said that they were able to run to safety, and that they were eventually rescued by a group of motorcyclists who brought them to a hospital.
At least four people died in the two days of protests and 239 were injured, the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, a human rights group, told ABC News on Thursday.
Anato said she blames Maduro for a lack of food, quality medical care and good schools in Venezuela. She said that she would continue protesting, even if it meant losing her job at a government-run school.
“A colleague called me and told me that since I’m injured…they would know that I was out there, and they will supposedly fire me,” Anato said.
She said that she and other protesters understood that ousting Maduro would take time.
“I know Guaido has done a lot in three months. We have international support, sanctions have been put through. We have to give him a vote of confidence,” she said. “I think he is a courageous man who is probably feeling the same fear we feel. Because believe it, there is fear on the streets. A lot of people don’t go out to protest because they are scared.”
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