An opposition demonstration scheduled to reach the headquarters of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) in Caracas today ended in chaos as state security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the largely peaceful protest.
Caracas residents awoke this morning to heavy presence of state security forces, as the national government attempted to block the way to the CNE headquarters. The opposition demonstration was supposed to start off in Plaza Venezuela, and then move west along the Libertador avenue.
The protests took place in Caracas and other major cities in Venezuela today in order to demand that the CNE stop deliberately delaying the recall referendum process against Maduro.
In Caracas, fourteen subway stations – Plaza Venezuela and others in the vicinity – were closed early in the morning presumably in an attempt to deter opposition supporters from reaching the area.
Still, a large group of protesters managed to make it onto the Libertador avenue by the mid-morning, and began its march towards the CNE. However, protesters ran into heavily-fortified National Bolivarian Police and National Guard lines, which prevented the continuation of the demonstration.
After tense negotiations, National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup and Miranda state governor Henriqe Capriles convinced the ranking National Bolivarian Police officer in the area to call the CNE and request that one of the organization’s rectors come to meet the demonstrators. The officer did, and rector Luis Rondon drove to meet them.
Below, a picture of rector Rondon (bottom right, teal tie) meeting opposition demonstrators on the Libertador avenue:
Once there, rector Rondon received a document from the opposition demanding that the CNE get on with the recall referendum process.
When Rondon retired from the demonstration to head back to the CNE, Capriles declared the demonstration to be over, and asked supporters to go home. While some did, a great number remained.
At one point, opposition protesters near Plaza Venezuela overwhelmed a small group of National Bolivarian Police officers who were trying to make their way up a stairwell. As the officers retreated, one of them fell, and was subsequently beaten by the protesters:
Below, a video showing the event:
Below, images from the protest in Caracas today:
Opposition protesters along the Libertador avenue in Caracas:
Protesters facing down security forces:
Protesters and state security forces in the vicinity of Plaza Venezuela:
Below, a person wearing a sign stands in front of a National Guard line. The back of his sign reads “There is no food”:
Security Forces Use Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets; Seven Arrested in Caracas
The protesters who remained on the Libertador avenue after the official end of the demonstration faced off against National Guard and National Bolivarian Police officers, who used tear gas and rubber bullets throughout the afternoon to disperse the demonstrators.
Security forces arrested at least ten individuals in Caracas throughout the day.
Below, a video showing National Bolivarian Police officers arresting a man in Caracas today:
In the vicinity of the CNE headquarters in Caracas, a photographer spotted what appears to be agents from the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacioal (SEBIN) on a rooftop:
Clashes in Merida Leave at Least Three Injured
The demonstration in Merida, Merida state was more violent than the one in Caracas, as pro-government protesters torched two vehicles at the Universidad de Los Andes (ULA) campus.
Yeison Lastre, a student leader, told media at the scene that a colectivo armado [a civilian, pro-government armed group] entered the university in order to chase down protesters. Once there, the group torched two parked vehicles. Below, a picture of one of the burning vehicles on the ULA campus:
Clashes between students, state security forces and the colectivo armado resulted in at least two students and one university worker injured.
Below, images showing what appears to be a student injured by rubber bullets, presumably fired by state security forces:
Below, more images from today’s demonstration in Merida:
Students In Tachira Chain Themselves Near CNE Building
In San Cristobal, Tachira state, protesters marched on the local CNE building and were also met by a heavy security presence. Three students chained themselves to a post near the CNE building in the city, as seen below:
Their sign reads, “Venezuela wants the recall [referendum]”.
Several Arrested in Barinas
At a protest in Barinas, security forces clashed with protesters and took at least five men into custody.
Below, a video showing bloodied protesters detained by police in Barinas:
Allup: We Will Continue to Protest
Speaking at a press conference after the conclusion of the protest in Caracas, Allup said that Venezuelans would continue to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful protest for as long as it takes to force Maduro and the CNE to allow the recall referendum to happen.
We will continue to protest. No one can stop us. In bigger places, smaller places, [we will continue to] call for the recall referendum.
Allup called the national government a “disgrace”, and said that Maduro is wholly unfit to continue to lead the nation.
Allup: Army Hesitant to Continue Role As Oppressors
Allup also said that state security forces are becoming increasingly hesitant to continue to fulfill the role to which Maduro has assigned them: suppressing peaceful protests with violence. Since this is the case, Allup said, the danger is that the government will come to rely more and more on colectivos armados.
Since the National Guard, the National [Bolivarian] Police and the Armed Forces are resisting and complaining because they don’t want to take on the cost of repressing civilians, the colectivos armados have appeared.
When asked by reporters to describe his interaction with security officers today, Allup said:
They were really nervous, really anxious, so much so that they themselves called their superiors.
Allup also said that “no democratic government restricts the exercise of a constitutional right”, and suggested that Jorge Rodriguez’s term as mayor of the Libertador municipality in Caracas has been “disgusting”.
OAS Head Writes Maduro Scathing Letter
The head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, wrote Maduro a scathing open letter released today. In the letter, Almagro ridicules Maduro’s repeated claims that he is part of an international conspiracy against Venezuela, and says that Maduro “betrayed his people“.
Almagro criticizes Maduro for his “rambling tirades”, and accuses him of shielding himself from “the scrutiny of your people”. He also calls on Maduro to release the people “you hold prisoner for their ideas”
The full letter can be found here, in English.
Maduro Tells Allup to “Get Ready”
In a televised speech broadcast late this afternoon, Maduro spoke directly to National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup, and criticized him for negative comments he has made regarding the recently-declared state of exception.
How can Ramos Allup come along with his forked tongue and say that the state of exception is anti-democratic?
Maduro also issued a vague threat to Allup, saying:
Ponte las alpargatas, Ramos Allup, que lo que viene es joropo…
The expression “ponte las alpargatas que lo que viene es joropo” loosely means, “put on your dancing shoes, because we’re going to dance”. The expression can be taken to mean, “get ready for what’s coming to you”.
Maduro: State of Emergency Necessary for Independence from NA
During the same speech, Maduro said that the reason why he declared the state of economic emergency is that so he could act independently from the National Assembly. According to Maduro:
That’s what the state of economic emergency is for, so that I have the constitutional power so that the National Assembly doesn’t stop any of the measures to protect the people (…) If I depended on the National Assembly, I couldn’t have done anything these past four months.
In order for the state of economic emergency to be valid, it must be approved by the National Assembly. The National Assembly voted to reject the state of economic emergency twice: once when it was first declared, and once more when it was extended. Both times Maduro ignored the National Assembly’s vote.
The National Assembly, as the national legislature, acts as an important balance on the power of the executive. By removing himself from the reach of the National Assembly, Maduro is essentially able to rule with no oversight.
Maduro Threatens to Declare “Internal Commotion”
If [a coup d’etat] or violent acts unfold in Venezuela, I won’t hesitate to declare [a state of internal commotion] if it’s necessary to fight for the peace and security of this country. I wouldn’t hesitate. When it becomes necessary, I will be ready. I have it ready. And these are constitutional, democratic measures.
Article 338 of the Constitution allows for a declaration of “state of internal commotion” if certain conditions exist. Article 338 partially reads:
A state of internal or external commotion can be declared in the event of an internal or external conflict that puts into serious danger the security of the nation, of its citizens, or of its institutions. It will take effect for up to ninety days, and can be extended for ninety more days.
The same article also states that the declaration of a state of internal commotion must be approved by the National Assembly, and that it must be accompanied by a law dictating the special measures that the government will take during the state of internal commotion.
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