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Venezuelan beauty queen slain in protest

A university student beauty queen was mourned Friday in the provincial Venezuelan city where she was slain this week during a political protest, a victim of what government opponents say is indiscriminate violence used by President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters to stifle dissent across the country.

Family members and friends of 22-year-old Genesis Carmona say the former Miss Tourism 2013 for the central Venezuelan state of Carabobo was shot down by members of the armed militias known as "colectivos" who opened fire on a demonstration in Valencia on Tuesday.

The government says the incident is under investigation, and Maduro said at a news conference Friday that it has been "well-established" by ballistics experts that shot came from the opposition protesters. Mourners at the private Mass and graveside memorial for Carmona said they have no doubt which side fired the fatal round.

The violence drew condemnation Friday from U.S. based watchdog group Human Rights Watch, which said "Venezuelan security forces have used excessive and unlawful force against protesters on multiple occasions since February 12, 2014, including beating detainees and shooting at crowds of unarmed people."

The U.S. news channel CNN said Friday four of its journalists were notified by the Information Ministry that they are no longer allowed to report in the country. They include CNN en Espanol anchor Patricia Janiot.

Carmona is one of at least eight people who have been killed during political protests roiling this South American country since massive opposition rallies on Feb. 12 ended with three deaths in the capital, including one government supporter. With even Maduro lamenting the tragedy during a speech on national TV, the young woman's death has resonated in part because she was a pageant winner in a country that has long prized its production of more Miss Universe winners than any other nation.

Her death also came amid increasing concern about escalating violence in the country, and has left many on edge as the opposition plans large rallies on Saturday.

The unrest has been particularly high in the western state of Tachira, on Venezuela's border with Colombia, where anti-government protesters have clashed with police and National Guard units, disrupting life in its capital, San Cristobal.

 

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