Venezuela officials: 12 dead in overnight violence

The last protests, on Thursday, descended into a night of clashes, riots and looting that left 12 people dead in Caracas.

An anti-government protester holds a Bible under the watch of riot police during a march in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 20, 2017. Tens of thousands of protesters asking for the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro flooded th.

The toll brings to 20 the number of people killed in three weeks of violent anti-government demonstrations.

The clashes are a challenge to Venezuela's opposition politicians, who have been trying to channel resentment over President Nicolás Maduro's growing power into a peaceful protest movement.

The accident, which killed eight people, occurred when a group of looters broke into a bakery in the working class neighbourhood of El Valle, according a firefighter who asked not be identified. "I denounce before the global community that armed gangs hired by the opposition attacked a maternity hospital with 54 children", Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez tweeted, noting that President Nicolas Maduro had ordered the hospital's evacuation.

The public prosecutor's office said later on Friday it was investigating 11 deaths in El Valle, adding that "some" victims had died from being electrocuted.

Tensions have raised over last month when the Supreme Court briefly assumed the powers of the Congress.

The government accuses the opposition of hiring armed agitators to sow violence, while the opposition says the government is repressing protesters and hiring thugs.

More attacks also targeted the electricity grid overnight.

Liliana Altuna says looters armed with guns and knives attacked about 30 businesses in the community of El Valle over the course of five hours. At least five people were injured in one disturbance a short distance from Caracas' main military base.

Melvin Guaitan died of a bullet wound in the slum of Petare, municipal mayor Carlos Ocariz said via Twitter.

The circumstances of the shooting were not immediately clear. Energy Minister Luis Motta Dominguez said the La Delicias B3 station in Caracas was sabotaged by protesters.

"We should remember there are people who were killed fighting for the cause we are defending", opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara told demonstrators walking through Caracas on Saturday.

Thousands of protesters dressed in white have marched into the west of Venezuela's capital today - an act likened to "crossing the Berlin Wall". There's also a sit-in to block major highways planned for Monday.

Videos taken by locals showed residents throwing bottles and other objects out their windows at the gunmen in the streets below, shouting "Murderers!" He didn't provide any evidence to back up the claim, and the opposition rejected it as an attempt to intimidate Venezuelans from exercising their constitutional right to protest.

Opponents are pushing for Maduro's removal through early elections and the release of dozens of political prisoners.