Slain beauty queen mourned in Venezuela

Relatives and friends carry the coffin of Genesis Carmona, in Valencia, Venezuela, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. The university student and beauty queen was buried Friday in Valencia where she was slain during a political protest, a victim of what government opponents say is the kind of indiscriminate violence that has been used to stifle dissent across the country by supporters of President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Relatives and friends carry the coffin of Genesis Carmona, in Valencia, Venezuela, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. The university student and beauty queen was buried Friday in Valencia where she was slain during a political protest, a victim of what government opponents say is the kind of indiscriminate violence that has been used to stifle dissent across the country by supporters of President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In this undated photo, Genesis Carmona, model and Miss Tourism 2013 for the Venezuelan state of Carabobo, poses for a photo in Valencia, Venezuela. On Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, Carmona, a 22-year-old university student, was struck in the head and killed by a bullet during an opposition protest in Valencia, Venezuela where National Guard troops shot rubber bullets and unknown gunmen on motorcycles fired live rounds at protesters. (AP Photo/Diario Notitarde)

Objects placed by opposition protesters block a road in the Altamira neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Violence is heating up in Venezuela as an opposition leader faces criminal charges for organizing a rally that set off escalating turmoil in the oil-rich, but economically struggling country. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Members of a pro-government “colectivo,” or “collective,” march in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters say the escalating protests against his socialist government in the oil-rich but economically struggling country are part of an attempted coup sponsored by right-wing and “fascist” opponents in Venezuela and abroad, particularly the United States. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Relatives of Genesis Carmona, embrace inside the hearse carrying her body during her funeral, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 in Valencia, Venezuela. The university student and beauty queen who was slain during a political protest on Feb.18 in Valencia, was buried Friday, a victim of what government opponents say is the kind of indiscriminate violence that has been used to stifle dissent across the country by supporters of President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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VALENCIA, Venezuela (AP) — 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 but indicated she may have been shot by an opposition protester, a suggestion that drew scorn at the private Mass and graveside memorial attended by several hundred people.

“She wanted to support her country and, well, look what it cost her for going out with a flag and a whistle. Killed by government mercenaries,” said Jose Gil, an uncle of Carmona.

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 report also said “the government has censored the news media, blocking transmission of a TV channel and threatening to prosecute news outlets for their coverage of the violence.”

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.

The U.S. State Department also issued a warning Friday to U.S. citizens in Venezuela to “maintain a low profile and to avoid all areas of civil disruption.”

President Nicolas Maduro has insisted that the protesters are “fascist” elements intent on fomenting a coup and pledged to crack down. On Thursday, a judge determined there was enough evidence to detain opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who surrendered to authorities a day earlier. The charges against Lopez include arson and criminal incitement related to a massive Feb. 12 rally.

Speaking Friday to international media, Maduro called out what he said was a “campaign of demonization to isolate the Bolivarian revolution.”

People at Carmona’s service who were also at Tuesday’s rally said they saw a group of up to 50 men on motorcycles, armed with handguns fire directly into the crowd of about 3,000 demonstrators, setting off a panicked stampede through the street.

“We were protesting peacefully and this was like a war,” said Emilio Morillo, an 18-year-old university student.

Kendry Gill, 22-year-old law student also at the rally, said nine people were shot, including a young woman who remains hospitalized in critical condition with a perforated lung.

“It was practically an ambush,” Gill said. “We’re peaceful. We don’t have any weapons.”

Carmona, who was in her final year in a marketing program at a university in Valencia, was not ardently political, friends and family said. Her uncle said she was drawn to the rally by the dismal economic conditions that the oil-rich country has experienced after 15 years of socialism-inspired policies and that her mother had gone with her to protect her.

“There’s no food, no milk, no baby food … It is horrible what is happening in this country,” Gil said. “That’s why she was out at the protest.”

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

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