Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the deadly protests that took place on February 12, 2014. The massive demonstrations led to several confrontations between protesters and security officials in and around Caracas, resulting in the deaths of three people.
The February 12 protests of last year occurred when both the opposition and the government called on their supporters to take to the streets to commemorate Youth Day.While both the government and the student movement have once again called on their supporters to march in Caracas tomorrow, the mayor of the Libertador municipality, Jorge Rodriguez, announced today that the opposition would not be allowed to march tomorrow in his section of Caracas.
The Libertador municipality comprises the western half of Caracas.
Speaking at a press conference today, Rodriguez said:
I’m being serious. We haven’t received any request from any kind of opposition group to carry out any type of demonstration in Caracas.
We want to remind you that in the face of the horrible violence that they tried to plant around Venezuela, Caracas was decreed a violence-free zone, a peaceful zone, and with a lot of effort the government of Nicolas Maduro and the government of the capital district took control of that situation. There was a plan to protest, to carry out assaults. It was a plan that included decapitating Venezuelans, a plan that involved using firearms against Venezuelans, of using force against the public order, and yet we were able to maintain order in our municipality.
The rights to protest and peaceful assembly are guaranteed by the Venezuelan Constitution. However, the government decided last year to mount a number of barriers to the exercise of the rights, including arbitrarily decreeing Libertador municipality an opposition-protest-free zone, and passing a law that requires anyone wanting to organize a protest to ask for the permission of the authorities first.
When asked about the pro-government protest scheduled for Caracas for tomorrow, Rodriguez said:
The revolution is the life, the peace, the meeting place for all [the good things] that will bloom around Caracas tomorrow.
Caracas Police Attacked with Grenades, AK-47s
Sucre municipality police attempted to stop a kidnapping by 10 armed suspects last night in the Los Dos Caminos areas of Caracas. The suspects were armed with assault rifles and grenades. A firefight broke out between the two groups, which ended with one suspect dead and six police officers injured.
Below, images of the aftermath of the confrontation:
2014 Protest Deaths Go Unsolved
The director of the Human Rights Centre at the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, Ligia Bolivar, expressed her disappointment today at the fact that out of the 43 reported murders caused by the protests last year, only 4 are being actively investigated.
Bolivar pointed to a recent speech by Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, who admitted that nearly a year on, only the deaths of Bassil Da Costa, Jose Alejandro Marques, Geraldine Moreno and Adriana Urquiola are being investigated. No action is being taken in the other 39 murder cases.
Bolivar also decried the fact that the seven people accused in Da Costa’s death are out on bail, and that the Venezuelan government has not asked Interpol to take action to help apprehend the Urquiola murder suspect, who is currently believed to reside outside Venezuela.
Rafael Uzcategui, the head of Provea, lamented the impunity with which murders take place in the country:
Out of all the cases investigated by the attorney general’s office, only in a minuscule number has a firm sentence been given to those responsible. Human rights violations, along with the crimes committed within the context of the protests, continue to occur with impunity.
Maduro Cancels High School Classes Tomorrow
Maduro declared tomorrow, Youth Day, a a national high school holiday. All high schools across the country will be closed to give students a chance to “celebrate” their day. On a televised speech earlier today, Maduro said:
Tomorrow is Youth Day. I’ve decided to declare tomorrow national youth day, and that tomorrow the youth should have the day off to mobilize and celebrate their day in their schools. Boys and girls, celebrate it by creating culture and marching!
New Exchange System Rolls Out Tomorrow
The new currency exchange system – including SIMADI, which will trade U.S. dollars at a market-set rate – will come into operation tomorrow.
Any Venezuelan citizen will be allowed to sell up to $300 per day, $2000 per month and $10,000 per year through SIMADI.