Jesus Ibarra, a 19-year-old engineering student, has been barely able to walk or talk since a tear gas canister crushed part of his skull during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro and he fell unconscious into a river that carries sewage.
Chronic shortages of medicine in Venezuela forced his family to ask for drug donations so Ibarra could undergo five surgeries on his skull and treatment for infections from the Guaire river.
Ibarra, who cannot return to his studies any time soon, needs to a sixth operation and therapy. It is unclear if he will fully recover.
Jesus Ibarra, a 19-year-old engineering student, had part of his skull crushed by a tear gas canister before falling into a river that carries sewage
Yolyter Rodriguez, 56, a housewife and a mother-of-three, was struck in the face with a tear gas canister, leaving her with skull fractures and brain damage
Rodriguez said she has not been the same mentally since the accident, but added: ‘I’m still in the streets protesting, despite my physical condition. We cannot give up’
‘I speak to my son a lot, and sometimes he makes me understand it was not worth suffering this, that he regrets it, that it was a mistake,’ said Ibarra’s father Jose at their small home in the sprawling hilltop slum of Petare in Caracas.
‘But other times he’s clearly telling me that it was worth fighting for a change he believes in.’
Ibarra is one of nearly 2,000 people injured during four months of fierce anti-Maduro street protests, according to the public prosecutor’s office. Rights groups think the number is probably higher.
Venezuela has been torn by political and economic crises that have led to extreme shortages of food and medicine, crushing inflation and the collapse of the local currency. Its new government structure has been criticized as a dictatorship.
Brian Dalati, 22, a culinary student, was walking to class past a protest when he says the police mistook him for a protester and shot him in both legs with rubber bullets
Both of his legs were broken by the bullets, and he says he now needs assistance to ‘go to the bathroom, shower, brush my teeth, eat, anything’
Manuel Melo, 21, a student, was hit by a police water cannon on May 22, sustaining internal injuries which claimed one of his kidneys
Melo says he has ‘a million reasons’ for joining the protests, but chief among them is rampant inflation which has left much of the country without food
Rubber bullets fired at close range, rocks, and tear gas canisters have caused most of the injuries, doctors and rights groups say. Most of those who have been hurt appear to be opposition protesters, but Maduro supporters, security forces and bystanders have also been harmed.
More than 125 people have died in the unrest since April. Thousands have been arrested.
The unpopular leftist president has said he was facing an armed insurgency intent on overthrowing him.
Opposition politicians have said they were forced to take to the streets after authorities curtailed democratic means for change. They have also accused security forces of using excessive force against protesters.
Jofre Rodriguez, 18, had his jaw fractured by a bullet which lodged in his spine and required surgery to remove it
Rodriguez is still waiting to have reconstructive surgery on his jaw. Despite his injuries, he says it was ‘worth it’ to prevent the decline of Venezuela
Najhud Najhla Colina, 23, was hit by an armoured vehicle and sustained injuries in her right leg before being arrested by police in June
Colina said she was brutalised by the officers who arrested her who beat her with their shields and dragged her along by her hair
Culinary student Brian Dalati, 22, said he was passing an opposition-manned street barricade on his way to classes in July when police mistook him for a protester. They hit him and fired buckshot at his legs, fracturing both of Dalati’s shinbones.
‘I depend on my siblings to go to the bathroom, shower, brush my teeth, eat, anything. It’s infuriating,’ he said. ‘They didn’t have to do this. It was pure hate. Thank goodness I will be able to walk again soon.’
The government says right-wing media are too focused on injuries to protesters.
Maduro has pointed to a case in which a 21-year-old man was set afire during an opposition protest and died two weeks later. A Reuters witness said the crowd had accused the man of being a thief, but the government said he was targeted for being a Maduro supporter.
Protests have subsided since Maduro’s government established a controversial legislative superbody three weeks ago, but hundreds of Venezuelans are still struggling to nurse their wounds without medicine and state support.
David Osorio, 21, an English teacher and a student, was struck by a tear gas canister, fracturing his skull and leaving him blind in his right eye
Oscar Antonio Navarrete, 18, a student, was hit in the chest by a tear gas canister, stopping his heart for several minutes and making him loose consciousness