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  • A demonstrator throws a molotov cocktail against riot policemen during a protest called by university students against Venezuela's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 9, 2016.REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
  • A demonstrator attempts to throw a stone towards riot police officers during a protest called by university students against Venezuela's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 9, 2016.REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
  • Female police officers clash with demonstrators during a protest called by university students against Venezuela's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 9, 2016.REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
  • A molotov cocktail explodes in front of riot police officers as they clash with demonstrators during a protest called by university students against Venezuela's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 9, 2016.REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
  • A demonstrator prepares to throw a molotov cocktail towards riot police officers during a protest called by university students against Venezuela's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 9, 2016.REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
  • Riot police use pepper spray against people during a protest over food shortage in Caracas, Venezuela June 9, 2016.REUTERS/Marco Bello
  • Riot police use pepper spray against a man during a protest over food shortage in Caracas, Venezuela June 9, 2016.REUTERS/Marco Bello
  • Female police officers clash with demonstrators during a protest called by university students against Venezuela's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 9, 2016.REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

As many as five people have died recently in Venezuela, which has been gripped by protests due to high inflation, food shortage and prolonged economic turmoil.

The latest victim, 17-year-old Jean Omana, was reportedly shot in the head as soldiers and the police clashed with demonstrators in Lagunillas, Merida, on Tuesday.

 He died on Wednesday at a local hospital, the Independent reported. 

In another incident, a four-year-old girl was shot dead on Tuesday as she was standing in queue for food with her mother at a government-owned grocery shop in Guatire, a Caracas suburb.

The state prosecution service has confirmed four deaths till now; however, human rights groups put the death toll at five, including a 42-year-old man they say died during the disturbances in Cumana.

 A soldier and a police officer were detained over two deaths, authorities said.

"It ended in total ruin because the businesses had not only their stock pillaged but also their furniture. It was total destruction," Ruben Saud, president of the Cumana Chamber of Commerce was quoted saying by the Hindu.

She was referring to the dozens of shops looted by motorcycle gangs on Tuesday in the eastern city of Cumana.

"More than 400 people" have been arrested, including three suspected gang leaders involved in the looting according to the governor of Sucre state, where Cumana is located. The city's mayor has also imposed a three-day ban on motorcycles.

On Wednesday, at least three separate protests broke out in parts of the capital, Caracas, a day after demonstrators blocked a road close to the presidential palace.

The Venezuelan Social Conflict Observatory recorded more than 250 looting incidents across the country in the first five months of the year that peaked in May.

Authorities have responded to the public with tear gas and riot police.

Internal political crisis 

Opposition leaders such as congresswoman Milagros Paz allege mismanagement by the government.

She expressed her sympathies with the looters and alleged they were common people with no recourse as Maduro "has not admitted the food distribution emergency."

But Leftist President Nicolas Maduro and his allies claim Venezuela is the victim of American intervention.

Maduro's ally in Sucre, Acuna, on Thursday accused the opposition of "sowing paramilitary values, such as hate and crime, in some citizens."

Prominent PSUV politician Diosdado Cabello defended Maduro and claimed that the opposition manufactured foment .

"It is a fairy tale that these are spontaneous protests." He told the viewers of the weekly TV programme, Con el Mazo Dando ("Hitting with the Sledgehammer".)

This week, Maduro and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry both announced a thaw in the sour diplomatic relations.

Both countries have been without mutual ambassadors since 2008.

Yet Kerry has also urged Venezuela to go ahead with a vote on recalling Maduro, after the President's opponents collected more than a million signatures for a petition demanding a referendum.

Late Thursday, Maduro announced his latest challenge to the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

He called on the Supreme Court to launch proceedings against the legislature for abusing its powers.

The plunge in global crude prices over the past two years has crippled the Venezuelan economy, which is heavily dependant on its oil exports.

Venezuela has one of the world's highest inflation rates at 180 percent and as Maduro's PSUV party has reportedly been unable to finance the import of even the most basic of foodstuffs, people have to queue for hours for subsidised food apart from dealing with daily, three-hour power cuts.

Under emergency measures already in place, civilian groups have been assigned to hand out food rations door to door.

The opposition however says that the system favours Maduro's supporters.

The President has warned that he may decree emergency measures if confronted with actions amounting to a "violent coup."

Such measures would likely prevent the recall referendum taking place which the opposition has dubbed as stalling tactics, as according to opinion polls, it is widely believed that Maduro may lose if the referendum takes place in the near future.

Rafael Uzcategui of human rights group Provea warned that the President's inflexibility could result in even worse tensions if he blocks the recall vote.

"What is currently preventing a general explosion of social unrest is the possibility that people can make their voices heard by means such as a referendum," he rold AFP, according to the Hindu.

"Not allowing a referendum would unleash a very serious situation."