Universidad Central de Venezuela Campus Attacked by Pro-Government Armed Groups
Yesterday, various student groups in Caracas called for a demonstration today against the economic situation the country finds itself in. This morning, Plaza Venezuela – where the demonstrators had agreed to meet – was effectively occupied by National Guard and National Police officers. The demonstrators were planning to hand the government a document “demanding economic changes… including details for the development of and industrial and infrastructural plan, macroeconomic stabilization… and the increase of oil production.”
These are student demonstrators this morning on the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) campus:
The demonstration made it to La Campiña, to the headquarters of something called the Economic Vice Presidency, where they were supposed to hand in a list of suggestions to fix the economy.
At some point during the course of the demonstration, security forces along with pro-government armed groups made it onto the campus, where they proceeded to violently suppress the protests:
At least one demonstrator was injured during this first round of confrontations:
Later on in the day, at least one group of pro-government armed men entered the campus, and began beating demonstrators.
Note: The man in red on the right side of the picture with a pistol in the air. Also note the man in the green shirt in front of him carrying some kind of stick:
Here is a video of the pro-government group stripping a demonstrator naked and beating him:
As a result of the attack on the UCV campus today, the university called on the government to dismantle and bring to justice these armed groups.
News from Elsewhere in the Country
Today, the Venezuelan Chamber of Malls and Related Businesses (I think – Camara Venezolana de Centros Comerciales, Comerciantes y Afines) said that starting on April 7, malls will be closed on Mondays in order to deal with “severe difficulties” resulting from the economic situation of the country and the protests. A statement from the Chamber partially reads:
The prolonged nature of the crisis without having reached agreements, nor having concluded the process of conversing with the authorities, makes the adoption of additional measures with the initial result of reducing operations to six days a week INEVITABLE.
Mondays were picked as the days to remain closed because “Mondays are the days that would represent the least amount of impact for users, employees and the community in general”.
Ronald Rivas, the Institutional Manager of Mercal, said that the line ups we’ve seen of people waiting to buy food “demonstrate” the purchasing power of Venezuelans. Ronald said:
The fact that there is an important quantity of people in line ups demonstrates the acquisition power of the people. People line up even to go to the movies, [and] that indicates the capacity to purchase and that the products are in our locations, the products that the population needs.
In other words, long line ups to get into supermarkets are a good sign that lots of people have money to buy food. No line ups would mean that no one is shopping because they don’t have money.
This is from El Trigal, Valencia this morning. It looks like the demonstrators have set up a cement truck as a roadblock:
Some students have camped out outside the district attorney’s office in Barquisimeto:
Barquisimeto has been the site of pretty heavy protests over the last few days. This picture is from last night:
This is a video from El Trigal, Valencia, published today. It shows a National Guard truck purposely crashing into a parked civilian vehicle:
In the report released Tuesday, Amnesty International had this to say regarding the pro-government armed groups, colloquially known as colectivos armados:
Also, the inexcusable cost of human lives over the last few weeks makes it more urgent that authorities take actions to disarm the pro-government armed groups, and to ensure that they face justice. Until today, Amnesty International does not have knowledge of any person belonging to these groups who has been detained or investigated for their responsibility in human rights abuses during the protests, including abuses against life and physical integrity.
Until the release of the Amnesty International report on the crisis in Venezuela, the existence of the colectivos armados was something of a mystery akin to Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. To those of us observing the unfolding events from outside of the country, there were signs of groups of armed people sympathetic to the government suppressing demonstrations, either violently or through intimidation. Yet, there was some skepticism as to whether or not they really existed, and how organized they were.
The Amnesty International report provided vindication for the claims of the existence and modus operandi of the colectivos armados. The sad events at the UCV today provided further evidence that the colectivos armados are a real threat to Venezuelan democracy.