Kluiberth (correction: it’s actually spelled Kluivert) Roa , a 14 year-old high school student from Tachira state was murdered by a National Bolivarian Police officer during unrest in San Cristobal this morning. Roa, a student of the Agustin Codazzi high school, was hit in the head by a bullet fired by a National Bolivarian Police officer at around 11:00 AM and died on the scene.
According to El Nacional, Roa was killed near the campus of the Universidad Catolica del Tachira (UCAT), where a demonstration was taking place. However, the newspaper points out that Roa was not involved in the protest himself, while El Universal reports that it is not known if Roa was a protester or if just happened to be in the area.
The aftermath of Roa’s killing was captured on tape. In the video below, Roa’s body can be seen on the floor being tended by demonstrators. Towards the end of the video, a group of National Police Officers (presumably including Roa’s killer) are chased away by angry demonstrators:
FEBRUARY 25 EDIT: The video below also appears to show the officer the crowd believes killed Roa. At the start of the video, a National Bolivarian Police officer is seen running away from where Roa’s body lies. People in the crowd yell “asesino!” [murderer!]. A man in a white t-shirt and brown shorts runs after the officer. At the 0:02 second mark, the man in the white t-shirt jumps into the air and kicks the officer in the back.
Another video taken immediately after Roa’s death shows him on the ground. National Police officers are standing near Roa’s body while the crowd reacts to the event. (WARNING: This video shows clear images of Roa’s fatal head injury. The video can be seen here).
Ramon Cabeza, a local government official, explained that a group of approximately 15-20 hooded protesters began trying to incite protests around the city early this morning. Cabeza says that when the group reached the UCAT campus, they began to burn tires and throw molotov cocktails. Cabeza claims that two National Bolivarian Police officers were injured during the protest.
As for the event leading up to Roa’s death, Cabeza said:
In one of the situations (…) a group of students attacked the National Bolivarian Police, they knocked them off their motorcycles and kicked and punched them. One of those officers, after regaining his footing, fired his rubber-pellet shotgun on the pavement to try to disperse the protesters.
Cabeza said that once it became apparent that Roa had been hit, the officers attempted to help him, but were prevented from doing so by the protesters.
Below, a demonstrator who tended to Roa – is chest still covered in blood – confronts a line of National Police Officers:
A makeshift memorial has already been erected for Roa. The crosses read “Mourning”:
Gov’t Arrests Suspect
The government was quick to react to the Roa killing, and a suspect is already under custody. Javier Moa Ortiz, a 23 year-old National Bolivarian Police officer, was arrested by members of Venezuela’s investigative police body, the CICPC, shortly after Roa was killed.
Minister of the Interior and Justice Carmen Melendez spoke on the murder this afternoon, saying:
A National Bolivarian Police officer has been detained, as he is suspected of having committed the act. He said that he fired his weapon – a rubber-bullet shotgun – at the student. [The case] has been handed over to the Public Ministry.
Protesters React to Killing
Groups of protesters closed several streets around San Cristobal in the hours following Roa’s death to protest his killing. As of the writing of this update (6:00 PM EST time), at least one guarimba (barricade) is restricting traffic down the Avenida Las Americas in San Cristobal.
17 Arrested in San Cristobal Protests
The Foro Penal Venezolano confirmed this afternoon that 17 protesters were arrested during the course of the day in San Cristobal.
The announcement was made by the organization’s co-ordinator, Gonzalo Himiob, and was current as of 1:00 PM local time.
Some shots of the protests in San Cristobal today:
First Protester Death Since Lethal Force Authorized
Roa’s death today is the first since the government authorized the use of lethal force to suppress peaceful protests.
The law, which came into effect on January 29 of this year, allows officers to use lethal force against peaceful protesters if they feel it necessary to do so.
While it is true that protesters died during protests before the law came into effect, the new legislation is nevertheless significant because it provides legal justification for the use of lethal force during protests, potentially allowing security officers who kill demonstrators to escape punishment.
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