Residents of a small town called El Playon in Merida state continued to protest today after they were allegedly threatened and harassed by a party claiming to be related to First Lady Cilia Flores and their body guards on Thursday night.
Citizens concerned by the disruptive and dangerous behaviour of the tourists – which included driving at high speeds along the local roads – approached the inn in which the party was staying on Thursday night with the hopes of reasoning with the First Lady’s relatives.
In a video uploaded to YouTube yesterday, a resident of the town explains what happened then:
Woman in Owl Shirt: What happened yesterday is that, a [group] of tourists had been here for three days in El Playon. They were [driving around] really fast. We approached them and told them to please slow down. At that moment, they took out three pistols and told us that they were related to Cilia Flores. We left the area, and called the owner of the inn so that he could talk to them.
When he went to talk to them, they went crazy. There was a 15 year old young man here [I think she means that the young man is a resident of the town, and he got into a confrontation with the tourists]. And the man, who says his name is Alexander Sanchez, [national ID] 1900430, who was driving a car with a license plate AA369RS, says that he is a body guard to Cilia Flores’ niece, and he pointed his gun at the 15-year-old to kill him. When that happened, we asked him what his name was and that he lower his weapon. He assaulted a few people with his gun.
We called the [National] Guard, and an officer came by. He said that the people who were in there [the inn, presumably] are also National Guard soldiers, and that they were escorting the [Flores] family. That’s when they called 150 National Guard soldiers to come here and throw tear gas at us, the community, because of the [Flores] family.
Woman off-screen: — into the houses! There were pregnant women there. Adults, elderly people, children. We had to take the children out of the houses.
[The objects on the ground at this time appear to be hand grenades (or possibly tear gas canisters) and shotgun shells]
Man off-screen: Starting at 7:00 PM —
Woman in Owl Shirt: We were scared for the safety of the young man because they were looking under every stone for him so they could kill him and his entire family.
Woman off-screen: We’re not leaving here until the governor shows up. He’s telling us to leave.
Woman in Owl Shirt: What we’re asking for is this: [the name of] the officer that they sent from the National Guard to attack us with his 150 men. That the man who pointed his weapon at the young man and two other people be detained. And that the National Guard that is still here leave, because we don’t want them here.
We want the President, his wife and the governor acknowledge this event because we are tired of being pushed around. We’re a community that doesn’t mess with anyone.
Man off-screen: Not only do they attack us, but they rob us too!
Man in Red Shirt: [Inaudible] Lopez Moreno (…) the verbal and physical attacks by the National Guard who were trying to protect the President’s wife’s niece’s body guards [off-screen: “Specifically, Cilia Flores”]. This has been going on since 4:00 PM yesterday [Thursday], but [the repression] got worse starting at 12:30-1:00 AM (…) because the El Playon community was demanding its right against having an ordinary citizen – much less a child and a woman – assaulted with tear gas and by shooting into the air against the people who were out protesting. This officer assaulted a child by putting a gun against his head and threatening him with death. We’re only asking that our rights be respected as Venezuelans citizens, because we’re tired of the disrespect against Venezuelan citizens in general.
During the confrontation between the tourists and the El Playon citizens during the Thursday overnight hours, the head of the inn involved in the event, Victor Hugo Mora, attempted to negotiate between the two sides.
Mora was subsequently arrested by SEBIN agents on Friday afternoon. Mora, who is also the chief of the local police station, was taken to a local court earlier today and charged with associating for the purposes of committing a crime, instigating hate, and disturbing the peace.
If true, this would not mark the first time that Cilia Flores’ family has made the news for its abuse of power and contempt for the law. Two of Flores’ nephews, Efrian and Francisco, are currently awaiting trial in the United States on drug trafficking charges.
Court Orders Mora Released; SEBIN Ignores Order
Earlier today, residents of the community held a meeting where they agreed to lift the barricade seen in the video above after a court ordered the release. The mayor of the Merida municipality, Carlos Garcia, spoke on the case through Twitter, saying:
There is no justification for detaining chief Mora. An honest man is detained, and delinquents are free on the streets (…) it’s sad that the abuse of power has as a consequence affects residents. The community has been paralyzed, [and Mora was detained] without reason.
Mora’s court appearance, which wrapped up around the noon hour, resulted in the judge declaring Mora to be en libertad plena [roughly, “fully free”]. A ruling of libertad plena means that all charges are dropped unconditionally and the citizen is free to go on his way without any delay.
However, Mayor Garcia told La Patilla that Mora is still being held in detention by the SEBIN, even after the judge’s ruling. According to Garcia, the SEBIN is refusing to release Mora “until they receive the express order to do so from the Minister of Interior, Justice and Peace, Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez”.
There is no legal foundation for the SEBIN’s request, since a judge has already declared Mora to be free.
Armed Mob Robs Shoppers, Loots Supermarket
A group of at least 20 heavily armed men robbed shoppers and then looted the Mercal supermarket in El Valle, Caracas earlier today.
Mercal and other state-owned supermarket chains often hold special weekend events were bags of basic necessities are sold as bundles. At around noon today, the group of men – whom reporters claim came from a near-by slum called El 70 – swarmed the premises and robbed people waiting in line, while also taking with them the bundles of food.
Three NG Officers Charged with Drug Trafficking
The Public Ministry formally charged three National Guard officers after a Cessna two-engine airplane was discovered to be carrying 349 drug packs in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on Thursday. The airplane originated from Barquisimeto, Lara state, and carried a crew of four Venezuelan nationals. The cargo, which authorities described as a white substance, is suspected to be either cocaine or heroin.
The accused appeared before a judge today in Caracas, and were identified as Franklin Pérez Peña, Roberto Sivira Fernández, and Onésimo Romero Hernández. The men are active duty members of the National Guard, and hold the ranks of supervising sergeant, first sergeant, and sergeant mayor, respectively.
The National Guard officers were arrested early this morning in the Jacinto Lara airport in Barquisimeto.
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