Leopoldo Lopez Formally Charged
The attorney general’s office finally filed charges against Leopoldo Lopez. Leopoldo is being formally charged with public instigation, damages [to public property], arson and associating to commit a crime. The Supreme Court is set to rule on Leopoldo’s status tomorrow, and with these formal charges filed today, it is almost certain that they will keep him in custody until his trial.
Anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision, the opposition has called for a 24 hour protest in Chacaito, Caracas, calling for Leopoldo’s release from prison. Freddy Guevara, the national coordinator of the Voluntad Popular party, said this regarding the planned demonstration:
We want to stress the anti-democratic nature of this government. Many of us have asked ourselves where all of this will end up. We’ve gained too much ground to retreat now. To those who think that this will end, we tell you that we will not give up. We have a new form of protesting, a new way. We are calling for a permanent protest over the course of 24 hours, [when] we will stay in the Plaza Jose Marti, symbol of resistance and liberty. We are not afraid. This will be a great 24 hour assembly.
That demonstration has been going on for a bit now. Chacao and Chacaito are nearby to one another, and apparently a group of demonstrators from Chacaito split off and moved into Chacao earlier tonight. These images are from Chacao this evening:
In Other News
Nicolas Maduro tweeted a video yesterday. It shows a man named William Muñoz being presumably beaten by a crowd of demonstrators and then escorted to an ambulance/fire truck. I say “presumably” because while the video does not show beating, William’s face later in the video is really swollen and it looks like he was definitely beaten up:
William was beaten and taken by the demonstrators because he was apparently part of the colectivo armado that entered the UCV yesterday and assaulted students. This is some I.D. taken from William, including a CNE (Consejo Nacional Electoral) I.D.:
Maduro tweeted the video with the caption, “Destructive and murderous fascist gangs in action”.
The attack on the UCV students yesterday left seven demonstrators injured with concussions, fractures, open cuts and rubber bullet wounds. The colectivo responsible also robbed four journalists who were on the scene, including two videographers from El Nacional. According to the secretary of the UCV, approximately 30 students in total were attacked by the colectivo.
As a result of the attack the UCV suffered yesterday, the university is considering suspending classes so that it may “analyse the violent situation” that occurred yesterday.
Today, Maduro called for Chacao’s mayor, Ramon Muchacho, to resign for being “incompetent and unwilling” to deal with the protests in his municipality. He also said these things:
The right [wing], which governs the universities, denies students the right to study. (…) [On the UCV potentially suspending classes] I think that the Fiscalia General de la Republica [the attorney general’s office] and the public powers must act and there must be responsibility amongst the [university] directors for the damage they do, the embezzlement of public resources that they do. No one can become the director of a university and then stop classes just because, just because they want to and they continue to collect their pay, and the state continues to give them a budget religiously.
Maduro also said that groups of guarimberos [people who put up barricades; in this context, “violent opposition demonstrators”] were the ones who attacked students and other demonstrators inside the UCV yesterday, despite strong evidence pointing to the violence being the result of pro-government armed groups.
Yesterday, the government created a body called the National Council of Human Rights. German Saltron, the Venezuelan representative at the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, said that the Council will “act as an investigative commission”. The body is made up 13 government officials, including the Vice President, the Minister of Defense, the Attorney General, and the President of the Supreme Court. These 13 officials make up the executive committee of the Council, and will appoint two National Assembly representatives to the council, along with three representatives from organizations of their choosing.
This picture is from somewhere in Margarita island. The big sign reads, “You have bullets, we have balls”:
And this one is from La Isabelica, Valencia, from earlier today:
This video, published yesterday, shows some National Guard troops attempting to detain an individual in front of a store:
The video is interesting because it shows the National Guard clearly signalling (by placing their hands in the air a couple of times) that they are not assaulting the person being detained. About half way through the video, some people come out of a store and drag the man being detained away from the National Guard, who then just walk away.
And finally, a video from of El Trigal, Valencia. It shows a group of demonstrators in a confrontation against unseen security forces:
Tomorrow looks like it will be an important day. The “24 hours of continues protest’ strategy is new to the situation in Venezuela. This latest round of demonstrations has been going on for almost two months now, but this is the first time that a more or less permanent demonstration has been called.
The big news of the day tomorrow will be what the Supreme Court decides to do with Leopoldo Lopez. There are four possibilities: 1) He is unconditionally released, 2) The charges against him are stayed, 3) He is released on bail until his trial, and 4) He remains in custody until his trial. I believe that the most likely outcome is that the Supreme Court will rule that Leopoldo must stay in custody until his trial. Given the fact that the attorney general formally filed charges against him today, it is virtually impossible that he will be released unconditionally, or that the charges against him will be stayed.
If there’s one thing that the Maduro government and the Supreme Court have shown us over the past few weeks is that they’re not afraid to make things up on the go. In other words: expect the unexpected.