Clashes between protesters and security forces have become a deadly cycle and doctors are seeing disturbing patterns in the violence
There is a pattern to the protests that have rocked Venezuela for the past two months. Anti-government demonstrators set off on a march to the government buildings in Caracass city centre to protest against a government they consider illegitimate. Halfway to their destination national guards and riot police deter them with gas bombs and water cannons. Clashes ensue and dozens of people are injured. Some die.
For the doctors at a medical post in Plaza Alfredo Sadel the predictability of the marches means the action starts around 5pm with an influx of wounded protesters. Until then they might have treated a handful of people suffering from tear gas or a few with injuries to their arms and legs from rubber bullets. But at dusk the victims arrive with deeper gashes or even unconscious. These injuries are not from rubber bullets to the limbs but from tear gas canisters shot to the chest and head. On two occasions it was too late.
For Dr Henrique Montbrun, who oversees the triage post in the municipality of Baruta, the violence in Venezuela has reached unprecedented levels. Its madness, he says. We have gone from an average of 30 wounded people to more than 65 in the last two weeks. We live in a continuous state of emergency.
As the clashes between the demonstrators and security forces enter their third month, doctors say that they can no longer predict the type of violence to prepare for. Dr Montbrun says injuries were originally superficial, usually buckshot wounds. More recently, protesters have been treated for 5cm-deep holes caused by metal marbles shot at close range.
Violence doesnt surprise me but the level of hatred security forces are showing towards average citizens and the use of non-conventional weapons like loading tear gas canisters with nails and marbles does take me aback, he says.
According to the public defenders office, 67 people including minors, students, passersby and national guards have died during or as a result of the protests. On Wednesday a 17-year-old died of an explosive-related wound to the chest and a national guard was murdered.