Last night, at 7:30 PM local time, Accion Democratica (AD) secretary general Luis Manuel Diaz was assassinated by a gunman at an opposition rally in Altagracia de Orituco, Guarico state.
Henry Ramos Allup, the head of AD, confirmed Diaz’s assassination through his Twitter account.
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica responded to the assassination through a press release last evening, part of which reads:
This horrendous crime took place the same day that Lilian Tintori was victim of a series of violent events in Guarico, and similar to those perpetrated by supposed government sympathizers against Henrique Capriles in Bolivar. In recent days, similar unacceptable violent situations have taken place (attacks against Henrique Capriles in Yare, Lilian Tintori and Tomas Guanipa in Cojedes, Miguel Pizarro in Petare, among others). These events are all framed by a government discourse that announces, promotes and justifies violence.
Below, a picture of the crowd at the Altagracia event last night before the assassination took place:
Geraldine Moreno’s Mother Witnessed Shooting
Rosa Orozco, the mother of Geraldine Moreno, was featured at the rally alongside Lilian Tintori. Moreno was killed during a protest on February 19, 2014 by a National Guard solider in Nagaunagua, Carabobo state.
Shortly after the assassination, Orozco spoke with NTN24 via telephone and recounted what she witnessed. According to Orozco, Diaz had come down from the stage where he had spoken when shots rang out. During the initial confusion, she thought Diaz had fallen, but realized that he’d been shot when she noticed he was blooded.
Below, my translation of Orozco’s testimony to NTN24:
Reporter 1: Can you tell us about what happened? We’re being told that an opposition leader has been assassinated at a rally in Guarico, where you were.
Rosa Orozco: Yes, apparently [unintelligible] – apparently a member of Accion Democratica was assassinated while we were all at a rally for “Everyone For Freedom”. We don’t know who did it, but there were several shots. We were on stage, and we were really close to the shooting. In fact, we dropped to the ground because we were afraid of what was happening.
Reporter 2: Who organized that rally, and what was it about?
Orozco: “Everyone for Freedom” is a campaign that I’m doing alongside Lilian Tintori and a group of people were we raise awareness about what’s happening to the political prisoners, and we ask opposition National Assembly deputies that when they win the election they promise to free the political prisoners. [During these events] I talk about unity, love, and reconciliation among Venezuelans, and Lilian human rights and human rights violations here in Venezuela.
Reporter 1: Could you tell us who Luis Manuel Diaz was?
Orozco: I don’t know him. I don’t know who he is. I know that he’s an opposition politician connected to Accion Democratica. But you know, at that rally – since it’s a rally for the unity of all Venezuelans – every political party is there: Accion Democratica, COPEI, Voluntad Popular, Primero Justicia, all of them.
Reporter 2: You were there on stage. What did Lilian Tintori do when she heard the shots? What happened at that moment?
Orozco: Well, we were about to end the rally, and at that moment the shots were heard, and security and other people came. We were on the floor and they covered us. We waited for things to calm down because people started running and looking around. There were lots of people there. So, they kept us safe and we were really nervous because we didn’t know what to do. We had some people around us, and we jumped off the stage and we went to hide somewhere nearby.
Reporter 1: But what did Lilian Tintori do? She’s a public figure. She’s Leopoldo Lopez’s wife. Was she standing beside the man [Diaz]?
Orozco: No. The man [Diaz] was below. But when the shots rang out, they felt like they were so close to us that — we were beside there. And when we heard the shots, we saw that the man fell down, and we thought that he’d just fallen down. Then we realized that he was lying on the floor, bloodied. Some people came immediately and took him away to a clinic – I believe it was the Los Llanos clinic, and the man died en route.
Reporter 2: Does that mean that the man was not on stage?
Orozco: No, no, he’d already come down. You know, the politicians come up and down – they talk, and then they go away.
Reporter 2: Just a few hours ago you’d been denouncing the harassment by some armed chavista groups. Who could be behind this?
Orozco: Well, look, we’d just come from Valle de la Pascua – in San Carlos, the same thing happened to us with a group of motorcyclists [pro-government group]. We couldn’t go in to San Carlos. Now, in Valle de la Pascua, there was an attack against us, an attack against Lilian and they didn’t even let her in. A group of chavistas came and they detained our opposition group and we couldn’t hold our rally. It’s obvious that the government is desperate and lost, so it’s acting violently so that [we will react violently], but we won’t do that. We are dedicated to a peaceful campaign so that we can tell our chavista brothers that this is not the way forward, nor the peace that we want in Venezuela. So, since the government is seeing how we’re doing all this work and that our message has reached so many people, they see themselves cornered. They know that they’ve lost the election, so they’re doing whatever they can do [win].
Lilian Tintori: They Want to Kill Me
Lilian Tintori, who headed the event during which Luis Manuel Diaz was assassinated last night, spoke to the media after the event and expressed her feelings in laconic manner: “They want to kill me”. Tintori was steps away from Diaz when he was assassinated.
At a press conference earlier today, Tintori said:
It was planned. The person who pulled the trigger waited for the media to leave the stage before doing the deed.
Tintori also said that she believes her life is in danger, and considers last night’s violence as part of a series of events, some of which she considers directed towards her.
When Tintori arrived in Guarico for last night’s event yesterday afternoon, the twin-prop airplane she flew in on skidded off the runway and caught fire. Tintori explained:
The brakes were removed (…) the plane caught fire because [of the emergency break action the pilot took]. If it had happened in another airport, the people in the plane would have died. There is no doubt that this was a planned event.
Tintori also said that Diaz was shot ten times while giving her account of the event:
While we were still on the stage, Rummy Olivo was going to start singing. I was standing beside her, and at that moment I heard a set of 10 gun shots very close by. We dropped to the ground and I checked my body all over because I thought I’d been hit. They want to kill me, as I — we — have already said a few times. Why do we have to wait for a brother from Accion Democratica to be shot 10 times to speak out? Why do we have to wait for one more Venezuelan to be murdered so that the alarm is raised at the national level, and raised even more at the international level? We’ve said it before: we need help. There is a deep crisis happening. This is state-sponsored terrorism. There were children on that stage, there were entire families in the crowd of more than 3,000 people. Everyone in Altagracia showed up.
Tintori also recounted the violence with which she was met upon her arrival in Guarico state earlier in the day yesterday:
They were waiting for us with stones and sticks. That group started attacking the Unidad [opposition entourage] starting at 8:00 AM, and we have images of the confrontation at the Valle de la Pascua airport. They waited for us with terror in their eyes; they had hatred in their voices, a hatred without reason. Women were yelling, “Murderer! You killed 43 people!” I’m the murderer? (…) The only one responsible is the national government.
Maduro: Opposition Paying For Attacks Against Themselves
Speaking at an event in Portuguesa state today, Maduro addressed last night’s assassination of Luis Manuel Diaz in Guarico.
Maduro first suggested that Diaz’s murder was related to criminal activities he was involved in. Maduro explained his theory for the crime, and lashed out against the head of the Organization of American states for suggesting that a pro-government armed group killed Diaz:
My condolences to the family of the deceased. The investigation has begun. The Minister of the Interior has evidence that this was an assassination, part of a grudge between criminal gangs. However, that piece of garbage Almagro has come out in the Organization of American States to speak out against the people and the Bolivarian revolution.
Earlier today, Almagro issued a statement in which he called Diaz’s assassination “the death blow to Venezuelan democracy“, and that the killing was not an isolated event but rather part of a larger project of attacks against the opposition.
People’s Defender Tarek William Saab echoed Maduro’s claims at a press conference earlier today, saying that he believes an organized crime group operating through the construction industry murdered Diaz. Neither Maduro nor Saab provided any evidence for their claims.
During the same event, Maduro said that the opposition is hiring individuals to pretend like they are PSUV supporters and attack opposition rallies and figures. Below, a video of Maduro’s comments along with my translation:
Maduro: Don’t let yourselves get sucked into political violence. I have some information right here in my hands – and I’m going to take preemptive measures, within the law so that they can’t say later that they’re political prisoners — I have in my hands first-level, direct information that some so-called leaders of the extreme right-wing are paying $30,000 and $50,000 to buy people to make them act. But also, to try to unleash between Saturday and Sunday and all of next week acts of sabotage against the electrical system, criminal acts, or violent acts at political events. I’m warning you about this war. Now you know.
I’m calling for peace, for coexistence, for respect for the constitution. I’m calling on all Venezuelans. Venezuela will not be dominated by anyone, by any empire. We’ve decided to stay free by any means necessary. No one can stop us! Onward towards victory by any means necessary! Understand that well. Do you understand what I mean when I say, “by any means necessary?” We will not sell or betray this homeland. We will never hand it over. I swear to you you. I swear on the memory of Commander Hugo Chavez. I will never betray or hand over the Bolivarian Revolution of the 21st century! I will defend it by any means necessary, within the framework of the constituton and the law! By any means necessary!
Cabello: News of Attacks are Lies
National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello said on his weekly television show last night that reports of attacks on opposition rallies by pro-government armed groups are lies. Cabello explained:
The trend now is that pro-chavismo armed groups are attacking John, Louise and Mary. They’re liars! We already know that. This is the story they want to push for the whole world to see. It’s lies. Here, on December 6, groups that love our homeland will come out, groups armed with tolerance because we will win.
Cabello also said that the reason why the opposition is lying about the attacks is to cover for the fact that no one is attending their rallies:
“Violence! They’re assaulting me! They won’t let me in! I don’t know what –” No, buddy. No. It’s that there’s no one at these rallies, so they start to make up whatever excuse to say that people didn’t go because of that, [instead of] because there’s no leadership, call to action, or solidarity among them.
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