The fallout from a new law allowing the military to carry and use firearms to suppress peaceful demonstrations continued today, as both opposition and government figures spoke on the controversial new law.
… shows a deep respect for human rights and for the lives of demonstrators.
The law, published on Wednesday, allows the Venezuelan military to: 1) carry and use firearms to suppress peaceful protests, and 2) in the absence of firearms, use other, unspecified “potentially lethal” weapons. Critics of the law immediately pointed out that it appears to contravene article 68 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which explicitly prohibits the use of firearms to police peaceful protests.
Lopez accused critics of taking the law out of context to cause discontent, saying:
By de-contextualizing, they lessen the entire meaning and remove it from the spirit of the whole structure of the document.
Speaking on the fact that the law appears to go against the letter of Article 68 of the Constitution, Lopez said:
[Venezuela has] a constitution de lujo [literally, “luxurious”, meaning “excellent” or “amazing”], which paints a decent country, one that forces its men and women to show decency in the practice of their values and principles.
Lopez also said that while Venezuela is indeed facing difficult challenges at the moment, he “does not believe” that a world without problems is possible to achieve.
Opposition Urges Army to Disobey Law
Opposition figure Maria Corina Machado urged the country’s military to disobey the new law, calling it unconstitutional. Machado was accompanied by Mayor of Metropolitan Caracas Antonio Ledezma and Freddy Guevara, the coordinator of the Voluntad Popular party.
Speaking at a press conference, Machado said:
Resolution No. 8610, dictated by Minister of Defence Major General Vladimir Padrino Lopez, violates Article 68 of the Constitution, which recognizes the right to to protest and explicitly prohibits the use of firearms and toxic substances to police peaceful protests.
The trio also issued a press release criticising the law. The document is directed at the country’s armed forces, part of which reads:
We citizens are overwhelmed by insecurity, scarcity, inflation and the lack of a future. State institutions have corroded, the economy has been devastated and as a consequence, the growing discontent finds legitimate expression through peaceful protests and demonstrations.
This decree is a coarse, unacceptable and undignified attempt by the Ministry of Defence to place the armed forces at the service of the regime and the PSUV to repress the massive discontent the Venezuelan people are expressing.
In this decisive and critical time, we trust that our citizen-soldiers will fulfil their duties and ignore the order to repress. Our armed forces exist to defend the people, not attack them.
NGO: Army Has No Jurisdiction Over Protests
The Foro por la Vida [Life Forum], an NGO made up by Venezuela’s human rights organizations, issued a statement today reminding Venezuelans that the military does not have the legal jurisdiction to police protests.
According to the organization, the new law not only violates article 68 of the Constitution (which prohibits the use of firearms to suppress peaceful protests), but also articles 329 and 332, which lay out the role of the military. In a document released today, Foro por la Vida said:
The Armed Forces were created and trained to defeat enemies in combat, not to protect and police civilians. As such, military participation in public protests could result in the violation of human rights against the civilian population…
Students Face Security Officials in Caracas
Twitter users reported a confrontation between students of the Fermin Toro High School in the El Silencio neighbourhood of the city and National Bolivarian Police officers. The confrontation appears to have occurred at around 1:50 PM local time. Some pictures of the disturbance below:
The disturbance forced the closure of several subway exits in the area.
FBI Places Lebanese-Venezuelan on Terror List
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) placed Ghazi Nasr Al-Din, a dual citizen of Lebanon and Venezuela and former Venezuelan diplomat, on a terror watch list today. Al-Din is believed to have used his connections within the Venezuelan government to funnel money to Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party classified as a terrorist group by the European Union, the United States, Canada, and several other countries.
According to the FBI, Al-Din – who was born in Lebanon but later became a Venezuelan citizen – worked as a Venezuelan diplomat in Lebanon and Syria for nearly a decade. He was first flagged as a potential Hezbollah collaborator in 2008, when the United States Treasure Department discovered that he had travelled back to Caracas in 2006 to solicit donations for Hezbollah. The U.S. government also alleges that Al-Din organized a trip for Hezbollah members to Iran in 2005, where they received terrorist training.
Milk Truck Overturns, Is Looted
A truck carrying milk was overturned in an accident on the highway connection Caracas and Maracay, causing it to overturn. Motorists and nearby residents who witnessed the accident took the opportunity to loot the truck of its contents, hindering clean-up operations:
One person was injured in the crash.
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