CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Five more members of a Venezuelan national intelligence agency were arrested on murder charges related to the shooting deaths of two people during anti-government protests, the country’s chief prosecutor said Wednesday.
Chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega said in a statement that the five agents were present at street clashes Feb. 12 in Caracas where 24-year-old university student Bassil Da Costa and government supporter Juan Montoya died. They were among the first of at least 16 killed during recent protests.
On Monday, Ortega said three others from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service had been arrested on similar charges.
Senior government officials initially blamed protesters for the deaths.
The protests began with students and were soon joined by tens of thousands of others in several cities, upset over economic problems and heavy-handed government response to the protests.
Venezuela’s foreign minister, meanwhile, is visiting nations in the region to lobby for the dispute to be taken up by the Union of South American Nations instead of the Organization of American States. Venezuelan leaders contend the OAS is dominated by Washington.
“Venezuela does not agree that this issue should be taken to the Organization of American States,” Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said after meeting with Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz.
Jaua was also planning to visit Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, all of which have leftist or left-leaning governments, and Paraguay.
Panama had proposed a special meeting of the Washington-based OAS to discuss Venezuela’s situation.
Associated Press writer Luis Alonso Lugo in Washington contributed to this report.