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The U.S. House of Representatives today voted in favour of a bill that would place economic sanctions and travel restrictions against Venezuelan officials found to be responsible for the human rights violations that have taken place in the country since protests started in early February.

The bill is now before the Senate, where a similar piece of legislation is being presented. The vote today represents a tangible step on the way to having the United States place sanctions on Venezuelan officials deemed to be responsible for human rights violations in the country.

Some high profile names on the list of officials to be possibly sanctioned include Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, Governor of Tachira Jose Vielma Mora,and  Minister of the Interior and Justice Miguel Rodriguez Torres.

In Other News

Ivan Simonovis, a man the opposition considers to be a political prisoner, has been in jail for alleged crimes involving the deaths of 19 Venezuelans during the violence at Puente Llaguno in Caracas on April 11, 2002. Simonovis was a high-ranking Caracas police official at the time.

This morning, Simonovis sent the Supreme Court a letter from his cell in the Ramo Verde military facility stating that he was starting a hunger strike effective immediately. In the letter, delivered to the court by his lawyer, Simonovis writes:

I’m tired of acting in accordance with the law. I have decided today to start a hunger strike from my dungeon until I receive a response (…) I have already exhausted all the legal means and ways for my petition, without having received an answer to my just request.

Simonovis is requesting a release on humanitarian grounds due to his deteriorating health. Maduro agreed earlier this year to allow Simonovis to be examined by doctors, but has yet to deliver on his words.

Simonovis is 10 years into a 30 year prison sentence for his alleged role in the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela.

A survey released by Venebarometro today found a disturbing lack of faith in the independence of public institutions. According to the survey, a majority of Venezuelans believe that the different branches of government, along with public instititutions such as the courts, are under the direct control of Nicolas Maduro. Here is a breakdown of the findings:

Do you believe that (name of institution) is a state institution independent of the office of the president, or one that acts in accordance with what Nicolas Maduro decides?:

  • National Assembly: 64.8% 
  • Comptroller of the Republic: 59.9%
  • Attorney General of the Republic: 57.6%
  • National Electoral Council: 60.3%
  • People’s Defender Office: 56.4%

The survey results indicate that a majority of Venezuelans do not believe that the separation of powers exists in the country. The survey also found that 51.6% of Venezuelans believe that the country should seek a constitutional way out of the current government. This latest survey, conducted between April 10 and 20, is aligned with previous surveys which show similar numbers, including a majority wish to get Maduro out of the president’s chair.

Below are two pictures from a confrontation between Tachira state police and demonstrators near the Universidad Catolica del Tachira campus in San Cristobal:

Finally, video of a cameraman named Gonzalo Ruiz from the NTN24 television network being detained by security forces during a demonstration somewhere in Venezuela today. I have translated the video below:

Cameraman: Why did you take my I.D, dude?
Officer #1: Shut up.
Officer #2: Are you Venezuelan?
Cameraman: I’m Venezuelan.
Officer: You’re not fucking Venezuelan.
Cameraman: I’m Venezuelan, guy! I’m Venezuelan, I’ve been detained, I’m with the press.
Officer #1: I hope they burn your house down so that you can go and say, [mockingly] “Oh! My house got burned!”
Officer #2: Are you inciting the students so they can get fucked over?
Cameraman: No! I’m just recording. I’m simply recording.
Officer #3: I saw when you were giving them rocks and bombs.
Cameraman: What?! Do you have evidence of that?
Officer #3: Of course, there’s the camera there.
Cameraman: Dude, I’m a reporter. I’m a Venezuelan reporter. [inaudible] and the police have just detained me. They’re hitting me and breaking my camera.
Officer #3: You’re giving the guarimberos bombs. And rocks.
Cameraman: I’m with the press. He just took my I.D. He has it.
[Apparently released from custody, the cameraman zooms in on the officer he claims took his I.D.]
Cameraman: Zambrano stole my I.D! Zambrano! Give me back my I.D.!
Officer #4: [Inaudible].
Cameraman: Why are you grabbing me? I’m working.
Officer #4: They took your I.D.?
Cameraman: That man over there stole it from me.
Officer #4: He stole it from you? Are you sure he stole it from you?

The video ends with Officer #4 walking away, apparently frustrated, from the cameraman.

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