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At least 12 people killed overnight amid unrest in Venezuela, officials say

The death toll from protest marches and disturbances rocking Venezuela for much of this month rose significantly Friday as 12 people were reported killed overnight in various parts of Caracas amid accounts of looting, tear gas and attacks on protesters by government-supported gangs.

The government prosecutor’s office said 11 of the victims were from the El Valle barrio of south central Caracas. El Nacional newspaper reported eight people were electrocuted in a bakery as it was being looted.

The additional deaths brings the death toll to 20 since April 4 when a new round of protests were triggered by a supreme court decision that stripped the opposition controlled National Assembly of its powers.

Although President Nicolas Maduro quickly reinstated the congress’ powers, the subsequent disqualification by the controller’s office of opposition leader Henrique Capriles from running for office fueled more protests.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters filled Caracas streets on Wednesday, a national holiday. Large numbers of Maduro supporters also held mass rallies.

El Valle is a densely populated barrio where 17 businesses also were reported looted Thursday night. According to El Nacional, the eight electrocution victims died after having come in contact with an exposed power line connected to the bakery’s refrigerator.

There were also reports of motorcycle-riding Maduro supporters known as “colectivos” in El Valle attacking and harassing opponents to the president.

Police used tear gas in the El Valle area to disperse crowds, according to reports. Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez’s office said on social media that 54 patients at the Maternal-Children’s Hospital in El Valle were evacuated Thursday night because of heavy concentrations of tear gas in the area.

At least two other residents of El Valle were killed Thursday night by gunshots, the newspaper said. One of the victims, Ramon Martinez, 29, was shot as he was trying to defend the family business from looters. The newspaper gave no details on the death of the other gunshot victim, Kelvin Leon.

Meanwhile in Valencia, officials on Thursday met with employees of a General Motors auto assembly plant that was seized by the government the day before. At an assembly attended by an unspecified number of the plant’s 2,600 employees, a government representative promised to ensure “workplace stability” of the facility.

At its peak, GM was producing 45,000 cars a year at the facility. But GM shut down operations at the plant in September, blaming currency restrictions. GM produced no cars at the factory in 2016, according to an auto trade publication “Motor.” Venezuelan law prohibits employers from letting employees go without government approval.

Mogollon is a special correspondent.

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UPDATES:

12:20 p.m. This article was updated with a revised death toll and reporting from the city of Valencia.

10:40 a.m. This article was updated with a revised death toll and news of a planned protest.

This article was originally published at 7:05 a.m.

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