El Nacional reported today that the cause of yesterday’s unprecedented protest just eight blocks away from the MIraflores Palace in Caracas began when government-backed groups attempted to take food destined to local supermarkets for their own purposes.
The newspaper reports that a truck carrying rice and sugar arrived at a supermarket on the Fuerzas Armadas avenue at around 9:00 AM yesterday. As the long line of eager shoppers waiting in front of the supermarket waited for the truck to being unloading, state security forces and a group of civilians attempted to divert the truck away from the supermarket.
The group was made up of soldiers from the National Guard, officers from the National Bolivarian Police, as well as civilian members of a local Comite Locales de Abastecimineto y Produccion [Local Supply and Production Committee] (CLAP). CLAPs are organizations created by the PSUV to deliver regulated products door-to-door to Venezuelans, and are made up of a number of different organizations, including the Unidad de Batalla Bolivar-Chavez militia.
Once the shoppers saw that the government group was trying to take the food they had been lining up for, they panicked and the protest broke out.
The newspaper reports that a group of approximately 150 people quickly amassed and decided to march west along the Urdaneta avenue to the Miraflores Palace, where Maduro works. The group was immediately intercepted by state security forces and irregular armed groups known colloquially as colectivos armados.
The Urdaneta avenue was not the only place to see a spontaneous food riot in Caracas yesterday. Similar disturbances occurred in Baruta and Catia, as well as in Guatire and Mariche.
Security Forces, Colectivos Armados Appear to Work Hand-in-Hand
Yesterday’s protest on the Urdaneta avenue saw over a dozen journalists fall victims to violence from colectivos armados, which are armed pro-government groups.
During the 2014 protests, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Venezuelan journalists and NGOs witnessed how state security forces would often allow colectivos armados to act violently towards opposition supporters at demonstrations without any repercussion.
The phenomenon appears to have taken place as well yesterday.
Andrea Cedeño, who works for VivoPlay, is one of the journalists who was attacked by a colectivo armado yesterday. She is pictured below, sitting on the left with her palms pointed skyward:
In the picture above, Cedeño and other journalists in her team are being attacked by a colectivo armado (the armed men looking over them). The picture also shows a National Bolivarian Police Officer (right, carrying a shield), who appears to be watching on without taking action.
We were really scared. We felt extremely exposed. You can see there [in that picture] how the officers who were moving along that street ignored our cries for help and simply continued on their way.
Cedeño said that the team’s driver was beaten and suffered a broken nose, and that another person who the colectivo erroneously believed to be a journalist was beaten with sticks.
A total of 19 journalists were attacked by members of colectivos armados during yesterday’s protest.
Below, another picture of a colectivo in action yesterday:
Gov’t: Journalists Part of “Perverse Mechanism” Against Venezuela
The ranking PSUV official for Caracas, Daniel Aponte, said today that journalists represent part of a “perverse mechanism of manipulation” against Venezuela, and they have been attempting to belittle and misrepresent the work of CLAPs.
Aponte was accused of personally stealing a journalist’s cellphone during the protest in Caracas yesterday. The journalists had approached Aponte and asked him a question when Aponte allegedly grabbed the journalists’ cellphone and gave it to one of his body guards.
Capriles Calls for Protest on Monday
Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles said today that there can be no dialogue with the PSUV as long as the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) continues to refuse to move forward with the recall referendum process against Maduro. Capriles called on the CNE to “respect the constitution” and set a date for the second step of the referendum process, something the CNE said should have taken place yesterday.
Capriles also called on opposition supporters to take to the streets in peaceful protest on Monday, and said that “we will go out as many times as is necessary”.
Caracas Chronicles Witnesses Wanton Disregard For Democratic Process At CNE
Caracas Chronicles writer Emiliana Duarte published an article on the website today outlining some of the things that she saw as a MUD witness to the CNE signature verification process for the recall referendum. The CNE is currently checking the approximately 2.8 million signatures that the opposition handed in last month in favour of a recall vote against Maduro.
Duarte says that she personally witnessed PSUV members and CNE staff colluding to disqualify entire forms – containing 10 signatures each – for even the most absurd mistakes. Duarte writes [emphasis mine]:
.Of course that’s not an ‘S.’ It’s clearly a ‘D’…” says the CNE supervisor.
The PSUV witness concurs. “The top of the form reads “Nuols Modwo Moud,” he says.
He’s talking about the handwritten bit at the top of one of the 200,220 forms calling for a recall referendum for the president. Like most of the forms, this one has 10 signatures. The person in front of me is telling me with a straight face that they cannot accept those signatures, because the people who signed them intended to recall some mysterious person named “Nuols Modwo Moud”.
Duarte explains that she saw how CNE and PSUV workers threw out signatures for fictitious “errors”, such as cursive letters that were not 100% legible. She also explains that CNE workers were only allowed to count one box of forms per day, even though they would finish their first box by mid-morning.
Duarte’s article provides a first-hand account of how the CNE is purposely undermining the democratic process in Venezuela by disqualifying signatures with little or no justification, and deliberately stalling the process. I highly recommend that you read her account, which is available here in English.
Man Vents Frustration Against Maduro
VivoPlay reporters interviewed a man who was out protesting in Caracas yesterday over the lack of food. During the interview, the man became agitated, and vented his frustration over the conditions he’s living thanks to Maduro.
Below, the video along with my translation:
Man: … when a son tells his father, “I’m hungry”! Dammit. He [Maduro] is a liar, man. He’s a liar. Everything is a line! Since 3:00 AM, since the other day, and nothing! And then he goes on TV and says, “There’s food! Everything is fine!” But nothing is fine. He must hold the referendum!
Maduro Sues NA
The President’s legal advisor, Elvis Amoroso, announced today that Maduro had filed a lawsuit before the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) against the leadership of the National Assembly, alleging that the legislative body usurped functions reserved for the President by making calls for the international community to intervene in Venezuela.
While it is not yet known who exactly is named in the lawsuit, it very likely includes the National Assembly’s president, Henry Ramos Allup.
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