The theme of today’s protests is “Ollas Vacias” (Empty Pots), as in, “Our cooking pots are empty because we don’t have food to put in them”.
So far it looks like marches are taking place in the usual places. Here are a few pictures from the marches today:
The National Guard is blocking access to a few places in the city. It’s not immediately clear to me why, but they might be trying to control access to the areas of Caracas where the marches are taking place today. Here’s a shot of them blocking an off-ramp onto the Andres Bello Avenue in Caracas:
And here they are blocking access to another road, from around noon today:
Another National Guard unit, this time blocking pedestrian entry to Plaza Venezuela:
Here’s a couple of interesting signs, from the Las Palmas avenue in Caracas. The signs read, from left to right: “There’s none, there’s none, there’s none. How much more?” (As in, “All we hear is, ‘there’s no toilet paper/milk/sugar/flour. How much longer until it’s fixed?”), “They want to steal this [from us, and an [i]arepa[/i] is pictured]. How much more?”, and “They stole my rights. There’s no milk”.
This demonstration was taking place this morning, somewhere in the state of Apure:
Here’s a shot from a demonstration in El Trigal, Valencia this morning. The sign at the front reads “He who persists is victorious!!!”:
A shot of a demonstration earlier this morning in Puerto Ordaz. Not pictured: That really long flag someone in Puerto Ordaz always brings to all the marches.
And finally, a picture of a banner with a witty bit of social commentary. It reads, “In Venezuela the only fridge that is full is the one in the morgue”:
That banner is timely because yesterday it was reported that in the first two months of 2014, there have been 2,841 detected murders in Venezuela.That’s 256 more murders than this same time last year. The government didn’t get into too many specifics regarding the data, but they did point out that the “most dangerous” states were Zulia, Miranda, Carabobo, Aragua and Lara.
National Assembly deputy Stalin Gonzales today called for protesters to continue to take to the streets peacefully. He also pointed out that, “In Venezuela, you do not have to ask for permission to protest, you only need to notify [the authorities] that you are going to do so. We did that yesterday and we were denied by the mayor of Libertador [municipality] via Twitter”. He said, “We didn’t ask for permission, we just notified that we were going to march. Let’s not fall into the game the government is playing with the police [blocking access to protesters].”
Today, Gabriela Ramirez, the “Defensora Del Pueblo” (“Defender of the People” – the ministry responsible for accepting and investigating human rights abuse claims, for exmaple) said this:
“We have 44 complaints against the right to physical integrity. We are going forward with them, and well, with torture, I’ve been clear. Yesterday we received this material form the Penal Forum and I will introduce this to the Torture Commission because, if for example, 11 youths are arrested, or 15, or 20 in one of these places, and one person is beaten or or treated… or, they try to… Look, torture has one meaning. That’s why we have to be really careful with the use of terms. Torture is used to obtain, a person is made to suffer physically to obtain a confession. And, we have to differentiate that from excessive treatment or a disproportionate use of force. And after establishing if it’s torture or if it’s a case of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the punishment is then determined and its proportionality. That’s why it’s important that we be careful when talking about this kind of complaint. Certainly, when we start to update the report, you can verify which people [in the report] you might know and which tribunal the case will be investigated from.”
People are upset by these comments, and understandably so. That’s because she’s objectively wrong on her definition of torture, both by international and national legal standards.
“Torture” in Venezuela is defined by the “Ley Especial Para Prevenir y Sancionar la Tortura y Otros Tratos Crueles, Inhumanos o Degradantes” (Special Law To Prevent and Penalize Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatments, 2013) in this way in Article 5.2:
“Torture: acts which intentionally inflict pain or suffering upon a person, whether they be physical or mental, with the aim of obtaining from them or someone connected to them a confession, to punish them for an act they have committed, or to intimidate or coerce that person or others, or for any reason based on discrimination, when said suffering is inflicted by a public official or a person in the exercise of public duties, by their order or with their consent.”
This means that the Defender of the People is either attempting to justify torture by defining it in the narrowest possibly way contrary to even Venezuelan law, or she is unfamiliar with the law altogether. Either way, this is a very troubling statement from the person in charge of managing accusations of torture against the government.