Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela policeman jailed over teenager death in protest

Funeral of Kluiver Roa Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Kluiver Roa in San Cristobal in February

A court in Venezuela has sentenced a policeman to 18 years in jail for the death of a teenager in an anti-government protest in February.

Police officer Javier Mora Ortiz, 23, admitted responsibility in the death.

The 14-year-old protester, Kluiver Roa Nunez, was shot in the head by a plastic bullet during a march in the western city of San Cristobal.

President Nicolas Maduro had condemned the incident and promised a full investigation.

The court in Caracas found Javier Mora guilty of murder.

He was arrested shortly after the clash between hooded protesters and Venezuelan security forces on 24 February.

President Maduro went on national television to regret the death of the student and call for an end to violence.

The student's death sparked protests against legislation that allows the security forces to use force against protesters.

Shortage of staples

Last year, the opposition and human rights organisations accused the Venezuelan government of using excessive force during months of protests in which more than 40 people died.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The state of Tachira was the birthplace of last year's protests
Image copyright AP
Image caption President Maduro has called for an end to violent protests in Venezuela

Among the victims were people from both sides of the political divide in Venezuela.

Dissatisfaction with the shortage of many staples, as well as rampant crime and high inflation, led thousands of people to take to the streets in the western states of Tachira and Merida over a year ago.

The protests quickly spread to the rest of Venezuela, but died down after several months.

Earlier this year, the opposition tried to revive the street protest movement, but gatherings were smaller, including the march in which Kluiver Roa was fatally shot.

The opposition says the left-wing policies of the past 16 years - initiated by late President Hugo Chavez - have failed, pushing the country into economic disaster.

Mr Maduro says the opposition and right-wing elements outside the country have been boycotting the country's economy and preparing a coup against his socialist government.

The Venezuelan economic crisis has deepened in recent months as the country, a major oil exporter, has suffered with lower prices in international markets.

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