Two Venezuelan police officers were killed Tuesday amid protests over public transport fare hikes in the western city of San Cristobal, the capital of the state of Tachira.
IN DEPTH: Political Violence in Venezuela
Confrontations erupted near San Cristobal’s University Technological Institute, a public educational facility near a transportation hub, the local San Cristobal newspaper La Nacion reported.
Student protesters gained control of a bus and overran a police line, killing two officers and injuring others, the Caracas-based El Nacional newspaper reported.
According to El Nacional, protesters took over a bus at the La Concordia terminal at 6:30 a.m. local time, sparking confrontations. The bus was later abandoned, Tachira police announced on Twitter.
Local police reported on Twitter that the two police officers killed were identified as 21-year-old Nicolle Melissa of the Tachira police and 25-year-old Marquez Molina of Venezuela’s national police force.
Aside from the two fatalities, four other officials were seriously wounded, EFE reported. Tachira police described the four victims as battling “between life and death.” El Nacional reported 12 in total suffered injuries.
Repudiamos estos hechos criminales donde dolorosamente perdieron la vida dos policías y otros mas resultaron heridos pic.twitter.com/zaFZ2GBz0i— POLICIA DEL TACHIRA (@policiatachira) March 29, 2016
"We reject these criminal acts in which we painfully lost the lives of two police officers and others ended up wounded."
Tachira Governor Jose Vielma Mora of President Maduro’s Socialist Party took to his Twitter account after the incident to condemn the police deaths as a “criminal act,” adding that the public prosecutor’s office will launch an investigation to find those responsible.
“We reject any act against the stability and life of citizens,” Vielma Mora wrote on Twitter. “Violence brings negative consequences.
1) El #CICPC se une al dolor que cubre el @CPNB_VE y @policiatachira por el doble Homicidio ocurrido hoy en tachira. pic.twitter.com/3SEJFu4NOO— Douglas Rico (@DouglasRicoVzla) March 29, 2016
"We join the pain covering the national and Tachira police today over the double homicide in Tachira."
Over 40 suspects were arrested in relation to the incidents, eight by Tachira police and 36 by the national police.
The fare increases that allegedly sparked the protests, set to take effect on Friday, change the cost of public transit from 20 bolivars to 35 bolivars. Elderly and disabled passengers will pay half-price.
Transportation in Venezuela has long been very cheap due to heavily subsided state oil, that makes the cost of filling a tank of gas about 0.4 percent of the monthly minimum wage.