Thousands of doctors have rallied in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, against President Nicolas Maduro amid the unrest which has claimed over 50 people dead in the country over the past weeks.
The Venezuelan Medical Federation staged a protest in Caracas on Monday, with nearly 20,000 thousand of its sympathizers marching on the headquarters of the Health Ministry.
Police reportedly fired tear gas to disperse the protest.
Fernando Gudayol, a 50-year-old surgeon, said “the country is verging on catastrophe. The health system is a disaster.”
“One is always afraid to come out, but we will carry on doing it until there is a change,” he added.
The outskirts of Caracas also saw clashes between police and a group of protesters, who had blocked streets with barricades.
The protests came after a youth lay in hospital after being set on fire by an angry crowd.
Commenting on the incident, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said opposition protesters set a government supporter on fire and stabbed him during a recent rally.
The protesters set fire to a government office and a police car in Barinas town.
Venezuela’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami said in Caracas that a drug storage facility in Barinas State was “totally destroyed.”
He said the right called for a march for health “but gave orders to attack everything related to care facilities.”
On Monday, the public prosecution service said the death toll from the ongoing mayhem, which is in its eighth week, soared to 51 after three people died in Barinas.
Supporters of Maduro staged a counter-rally near the presidential palace.
“What lack of medicine?” asked Rangel Vegas, a 31-year-old medical student, adding, “We are in the streets and in the clinics giving a response to what communities need.”
Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told reporters that the government side “is the victim of political and ideological persecution in Venezuela and internationally.”
The embattled Venezuelan president has called for a further “march for peace” to be held on Tuesday.
Oil-rich Venezuela is struggling with a soaring inflation and shortages of food and medicine.
The opposition and its supporters blame Maduro for the crisis, demanding elections, the freedom of jailed activists, and permits for the entry of foreign aid.
The latest wave of unrest initially erupted in early April, when the Supreme Court stripped the opposition-controlled parliament of its powers. Although the decision was later revoked, protests have continued.
The left-wing government, however, says the protests are incited by the United States to remove the president from power.