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In photos: The 'white helmets' of Venezuela provide first aid to victims of violence in street protests

They are the first responders who volunteer at demonstrations, negotiating their way between protesters, police, tear gas and rocks. The doctors and medical students rescue victims of clashes between the government and opposition, which have left 437 people injured and 46 dead.
Publicado: 13 May | 01:06 PM EDT
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Dozens of doctors, medical students and volunteers of the First Aid team at the Central University of Venezuela spread out at the protests ready to attend victims where they fall. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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Identified by their white helmets with a painted green cross, the demonstrators make way for them. During clashes they spread out and are assigned colors according to their proximity to the front lines: Red (those in the line of fire), orange (at a prudent distance) and green (further removed to organize transport to medical clinics). Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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With gas masks but no bullet-proof vests, almost all of their equipment has been donated or purchased by volunteers. Anesthetics, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, bronchodilators, sutures, gauze, eyedrops and antacids are the basic supplies they take to treat the injured on the streets during protests. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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"We're ready to tend to 200 people, but at some point there will be 400," volunteer and medical student Stephanie Plaza, 22, told Reuters during a recent march in Caracas, capital of Venezuela. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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The 'white helmets' were formed in 2014 during a previous wave of protests against the government of Nicolás Maduro. They have developed a technique where they surround the injured, some give first aid while others provide protection from tear gas canisters or shotgun pellets. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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Despite the donations that Venezuelans abroad have made from cities like Miami or Madrid, rescuers have had to improvise neck braces and other emergency care methods. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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With 85 percent shortages in most medical supplies, according to calculations by the country's main pharmaceutical association, it is hard to provide optimal treatment to the injured. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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Doctors and volunteers meet close to where the demonstrations begin. At the San Ignacio Center, a mall in east Caracas, rescuers distribute medical supplies before one of the protests. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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The idea of 'white helmets' emerged in 2014, when the previous wave of protests escalated to more than four dozen dead. The green cross helps identify them in the crowd as many protests wear all manner of hear gear, however they have also come under attack by police during protests. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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The activists stop chanting their slogans and applaud when volunteers go by. The street clashes have continued for 45 days, resulting in a variety of injuries from blunt trauma, to burns and gunshot wounds. Severl people have been run over by armored vehicles. More than 40 have died since the protests began in April. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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The white helmets attend victims in other cities around the country where clashes have occured, such as in the western state of Táchira, bordering Colombia, where volunteer doctors wear civilian clothing and use pseudonyms to avoid being arrested or attacked by government officials. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision
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The 'white helmets' end up exhausted at the end of the day. The wounded who also include officers and passers-by, are putting more pressure on the oil-rich country's overwhelmed hospital. The country has been engulfed for years in a seemingly endless circle of economic crisis, lack of basic goods, and young people willing to risk their lives to protest against the socialist government that has been in power since 1999. Foto: Alejandro Cegarra | Univision