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Venezuelans protest femicide after three women killed

(People protest in Acarigua, Venezuela, on February 27, 2021, demanding justice just days after three young women were murdered in Portuguesa state. Photo: AFP)

ACARIGUA, VENEZUELA, (AFP):- More than 300 demonstrators gathered in Venezuela’s agricultural Portuguesa state Saturday following the murder of three young women last week, in a protest against femicide, the gender-related killing of women and girls.

Chanting for “Justice” and holding balloons with the phrase “Not one more” written in black marker, women and men marched peacefully in the northern city of Acarigua where drivers honked horns in support, as protesters also gathered in the capital of Caracas.

“We are afraid,” Ariadna Gonzalez, a 22-year-old psychology student, told AFP, holding up a banner with the message: “Being alive should not be an achievement.”

The succession of murders began last Sunday with the killing of Eliannys Martinez, 17, after she attended an evangelical church in the town of Turen, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Acarigua.

In the same town, Eduarlis Falcon, 20, was murdered after leaving her house on Monday to go to the gym.

Both women bore signs of sexual violence, according to local press reports.

Another woman, Carmine Sosa, 33, died in Portuguesa state at the hands of a former partner during the past week.

Promising “maximum justice,” Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced investigations into the murders of Martinez and Falcon.

His office says it is aware of 610 cases of femicide that have occurred since 2017, half of which have been resolved.

Daniela Duran, a performing arts student who spoke at the protest, said that “we want to have the same right that men have to go quietly to the gym at 6:00 in the morning, to walk home alone after a Sunday mass, to return home quietly when it gets dark.”

The 23-year-old, who said she has experienced harassment on the street, said such occurrences are “part of everyday life. There is no need to wear low-cut clothes, you can go out covered and with your hair up and the men in the cars slow down and pull over.”

Monitor de Femicidios, an independent initiative by the digital communication platform Utopix estimates 256 femicides last year, compared to 167 in 2019.

Venezuela already suffers from a high rate of violent death compared to other countries in the region.

Almost 12,000 violent deaths occurred in 2020, according to the NGO Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia.

That rate, which translates to 45.6 deaths per 100,000 residents, is seven times higher than the world average.

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