Two Venezuelan teenagers were shot to death in their southern Colombia hometown and the government in Caracas said it was denying a Colombian request to take over the case.
Maduro supporters claimed Colombia was guilty of extrajudicial killings and called for reprisals against Colombian security forces.
In a statement Friday, the Venezuelan government accused Colombian President Ivan Duque of having criminal motivations for urging the country’s judicial system to prosecute the two suspects.
One of the teenagers was an army lieutenant while the other was a medical student and police informant. They were killed Thursday as they were leaving a funeral procession for an ex-military militiaman who was slain on Thursday.
The chief prosecutor’s office and authorities in Colombia say the two suspects were 17 and 15 years old respectively. Prosecutors say they have asked to transfer custody of the two suspects to Venezuela, but Caracas says the prosecution there will not grant that request, claiming their survival is at stake.
The incident comes as Venezuela is facing increasingly severe shortages and hyperinflation that have left millions in the country struggling to obtain basic consumer goods. The victims were shot while walking through Monzon, and local media reported that rumors spread they were shot during an armed confrontation or robbery.
The teen’s father, Oscar Rodriguez, told reporters that his son was shot twice in the head, once in the face and once in the chest. “I am furious,” he said.
Venezuela’s opposition was quick to criticize the violence as Venezuela faces grave socio-economic crisis and rising crime.
Opposition leader Freddy Guevara, who in 2015 in an emotional speech at the United Nations called on the country’s former president Nicolas Maduro to quit, accused the government of orchestrating the killing to bolster its supporters’ claim that protests against the government were violent.
The government says it will continue to police Venezuela “with determination.”
Venezuela, a major oil exporter, has been roiled by political turmoil following the disputed 2017 election of Maduro that strengthened his grip on power in the oil-rich nation.
The opposition claims Maduro is a dictator and accuses him of taking advantage of the economic crisis to rule Venezuela with an iron fist.
Associated Press Writer Cesar Garcia in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.
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