The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) staged its biggest protest in over a month in Caracas today to demand that the Maduro regime allow regional elections to take place, after having postponed them without explanation last year. The demonstration began at approximately 10:00 AM Caracas time, and set off from four rally points towards the offices of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), the body in charge of organizing and holding elections.
The four rally points were: Parque del Este, Santa Fe, O’Higgins Plaza, and Santa Monica.
Shortly before the start of the protest, National Assembly deputy Juan Guaido held a press conference in which he said:
Mrs. Tibisay Lucena [the head of the CNE]: there is no excuse for not calling for elections. We are the majority and we are making this demand.
As in previous opposition protests, the Caracas subway system shut down six stations this morning, presumably to make the task of getting to the rally points more difficult for opposition supporters. The stations were all located near the rally points, and were: Chacaito, Plaza Venezuela, Sabana Grande, Colegio de Ingenieros, Bellas Artes, and Parque Carabobo.
Protests Unfold in Relative Normality
Throughout the country, today’s protests unfolded more or less in usual fashion, with heavy National Guard and National Bolivarian Police presence at regional CNE headquarters. While the protests were overwhelmingly peaceful, skirmishes did break out between protesters and security forces in Valencia and San Cristobal in particular.
Below, some images from today’s protests:
In Caracas, protesters ran up against National Guard “mobile walls” on the Libertador Avenue, fences that can be driven to and deployed anywhere:
The video below shows a group of demonstrators on the Libertador Avenue:
A group has blocked the lower part of Libertador Avenue. They are asking the rest to come down while they yell, “the streets belong to the people, not the police!”
In the video below, the protesters are chanting “Nos roban! Nos man! Y ustedes no hacen nada!” [They rob us, they kill us, and you do nothing!] to the National Bolivarian Police officers present:
In Carabobo state (likely in Valencia), protesters clashed with National Bolivarian Police officers, who responded by firing rubber pellets into the air:
Protesters also took to the streets in Barinas state:
Rondon Receives Demands from Protesters in Caracas
CNE rector Luis Emilio Rondon met opposition protesters on the Libertador Avenue in Caracas to receive a document in which they demanded an announcement from the electoral body on elections for this year. Rondon received the document at about 1:35 PM local time.
Upon receiving the document, Rondon said that he would take it back to the CNE offices in Caracas, where he would discuss it with the rest of the organization’s leadership. Rondon said:
We hope that the CNE directorate will debate in the new few days the schedule for the regional elections.
While Constitutional term limits dictate that elections for governors, state assemblies and city councils had to have taken place last year, the CNE postponed the elections back in October without giving a clear reason. Lucena made the announcement then by simply saying:
The regional elections will be held at the end of the first semester of 2017.
The postponement was widely regarded as a naked attempt by the Maduro regime to remain in power given its near-universal unpopularity and demonstrated inability to handle the country’s economic, social and political collapse.
Below, an image of Rondon (left, black suit) receiving the document from Henrique Capriles (Venezuelan cap, right) and Freddy Guevara (centre, glasses):
Capriles: No More “Conventional” Protests
Speaking to the press in the Bello Monte area of Caracas around the noon hour, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles said that today’s demonstration would be the last “conventional” protest, and that all subsequent opposition protests would come “by surprise”.
Capriles also spoke on the importance of today’s protests, saying:
We are in all [state] capitals today demanding elections now. We are asking for something that can never be lacking in a democracy. If there is no vote, there can be no democracy.
Lopez Sends Message to Protesters from Ramo Verde
Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo Lopez sent a message to protesters today from the Ramo Verde military prison, which was published through his Twitter account. The message reads:
This is not a struggle between the MUD versus PSUV, it’s [the struggle] between a society that wants to be free versus a dictatorship.
At this time, we cannot become paralyzed into inaction, [because] this would prevent the opposition from becoming a credible
Lopez also said that the worst enemy of the Venezuelan was not Maduro, but rather despair:
In these dark hours I say to you: do not yield even one centimeter to despair, Venezuela.
Ramos Allup: AD Will Not Agree to Future Dialogue
National Assembly deputy and head of the Accion Democratica (AD) opposition party Henry Ramos Allup said last night that the AD will not accept a set of 21 proposals made by an international team of mediators in an attempt to re-start talks between the MUD and the PSUV.
Allup said that he has no faith that the PSUV will keep any of the promises it makes, given its proven track record of committing to actions as a way to defuse tension in the country only to later break its commitments and continue with political repression.
On the document, Allup said:
I’ve read the document. It’s very long. These are proposals that [the mediators] are making of the government and the opposition. I read it and I told my colleagues at the MUD that AD will not sign this document. We will not sign it! Even if they promise us to free the political prisoners, to form truth commissions, elections, respect for the National Assembly, blah, blah, blah. There are so many points and they all depend on so many circumstances that [the PSUV] won’t meet any of them. We will not sign that document and we will demand elections for governors now.
During the last round of talks with the PSUV in November and December of last year, the opposition demanded that the regime release all political prisoners in the country, of which there were approximately 109 at the time. The PSUV promised to release only 71 of them by November 11, but failed to keep its promise.
Mujica: MUD Playing Into Regime’s Hands
The head of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) political party, Felipe Mujica, spoke in an interview today with Vladimir Villegas on Globovision‘s Vladimir a la 1. During the interview, Mujica spoke on the state of the Venezuelan opposition, and in particular that of the MUD.
Mujica had harsh words for the opposition bloc, saying:
[The MUD] has made mistakes that have made things easy [for the government]. The MUD has become something that the Executive [Maduro] wants, and not what the country needs.
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