SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (AP) — People demonstrating against a bus fare hike killed two police officers Tuesday in the restive western Venezuelan town of San Cristobal as informal protests sweep the troubled country.
The officers, aged 21 and 25, were killed by a bus hijacked and later abandoned by protesters in Tachira state, according to the Tachira police. Four other officers were seriously injured when masked protesters drove the hijacked bus through a police line, according to posts from the Tachira police Twitter account.
Earlier this month, the government doubled bus fares.
At least 31 people were arrested during the protest, according to Tachira Secretary of Public Security Ramon Cabeza.
Gov. Jose Vielma Mora decried the killings on his Twitter account.
“We reject any act that threatens stability and the lives of citizens. Violence brings bad consequences,” he wrote. “Honor and glory to the brave men and women of the police force, who risk their lives to protect the people.”
Informal street protests have become more common in recent months, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, as Venezuelans struggle with raging inflation, worsening shortages of basics such as like medicine and water, and proliferating food lines.
The country has seen an average of 17 small-scale protests a day so far this year, according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, with a majority seeking to bring attention to the lack of basic services and food.
An anti-government protest at one of the city’s largest universities continued into the afternoon, apparently unrelated to the protest that turned deadly in the morning.
The city is known for its frequent student demonstrations Protests in San Cristobal against the country’s socialist administration two years ago helped spark a nationwide street protest movement. The town’s mayor was imprisoned for his involvement.