Venezuelan student leader shot dead at protest

A woman walks past barricades in San Cristobal on 8 March, 2014 Many streets in the western city of San Cristobal have been blocked by barricades

A student leader has been killed at an anti-government protest in western Venezuela, officials have said.

Daniel Tinoco was shot in the chest at a road junction during a demonstration in San Cristobal, the city's police chief Angel Perdomo said.

Eyewitnesses said Mr Tinoco and other students were attacked by armed men riding motorcycles.

At least 22 people have been killed since the unrest in Venezuela started more than a month ago.

Day of clashes

Both opponents and supporters of the government have been among those killed in clashes with each other and the security forces.

Mr Perdomo did not say who might have been behind the shooting of Mr Tinoco, an outspoken student leader who often manned the barricades erected as part of the anti-government protests in San Cristobal.

Students fire a homemade mortar tube towards security forces in San Cristobal before dawn on 9 March, 2014 Daniel Tinoco was shot after a day of clashes between students and the security forces

The city's mayor, Daniel Ceballos of the opposition Popular Will party, said the incident happened after a day of clashes between opposition supporters, pro-government armed militia, and security personnel.

The opposition has accused the pro-government militia, known as "colectivos", of targeting and harassing them, and has called for them to be disarmed.

The government, meanwhile, has blamed much of the violence on "fascist" groups, who it has alleged are trying to stage a coup against President Nicolas Maduro.

'On the trail'

On Monday, the authorities also confirmed the death of a Chilean woman in the western city of Merida.

Giselle Rubilar, 47, was shot in the face while clearing a barricade, officials said.

Merida Governor Alexis Ramirez of the governing PSUV party said Ms Rubilar was "ambushed by extreme right-wing groups".

A barricade set by anti-government protesters is removed at Altamira square in Caracas on 6  March, 2014. The government has been trying to clear some of the barricades, especially in the capital, Caracas

President Maduro said her killers had been identified and the authorities were "on their trail".

"Rest assured, Chile and Latin America, we are going to capture the assassins of this compatriot and they will pay for this horrendous crime," he added.

The president also told his supporters the the government had the opposition protests under control.

"We have faced a coup and neutralised it," he said.

But students in San Cristobal, where the current wave of protests first started in early February, said they would continue their daily protests and hold fast to their slogan: "He who tires, loses".

Controversial barricades

Barricades have become a common but controversial feature of the anti-government protests in cities such as San Cristobal and the capital, Caracas.

Protesters say they are a way of exerting pressure on the Maduro government, while others complain about the disruption they cause to the lives of locals and the danger they pose to motorcyclists.

In February, a motorcyclist was decapitated by barbed wire strung across a road as part of a barricade.

The current wave of protests first started in San Cristobal when students demonstrated about the lack of security in Venezuela.

It has since spread to other cities and been joined by Venezuelans disgruntled by the country's high inflation and shortages of some staple foods.

Tens of thousands have taken part in marches demanding the resignation of the government, but there have also been mass rallies in support of President Maduro.

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