Opposition demonstrators clashed with authorities in Caracas today as National Guard (NG) and National Bolivarian Police (NBP) officers prevented the demonstrators from reaching their destination: the National Assembly in the west end of the city. The clashes were the most violent the city has seen in months.
Caracas awoke in lock-down this morning, as the Maduro regime attempted to mitigate the effect of the opposition demonstration. Despite the fact that today was a working day, the Caracas Subway System shut down 12 stations in the city core to prevent access to the area to opposition supporters.
Authorities also closed or restricted road access into the city in an attempt to prevent opposition supporters from the areas around Caracas from joining the demonstration in the city. The highway connecting Caracas with Guarenas, a city to the east, was completely shut down. El Universal reports that “thousands of [bus] passengers” stranded on the highway chose to exit their vehicles and continue into Caracas on foot throughout the morning.
The main opposition demonstration was prevented from continuing its march to the National Assembly by NBP and NG forces. The two sides clashed on the Libertador Avenue, roughly in the section between the Los Cedros mall and Plaza Venezuela.
Below, images and videos from today’s clashes in Caracas.
The videos below shows protesters and NBP officers clashing:
Below, protesters charging a NBP line. The officers respond with pepper spray and batons:
At one point, the NBP forces were backed up by a ballena [“whale”], the colloquial term for water-cannon trucks:
The video below shows protesters attempting to stop the ballena from moving forward:
The video below appears to show a demonstrator disarming an officer, likely from the NG. The protester takes a long-barreled weapon from the officer, and threatens the officer with the butt of the weapon. Other demonstrators then step in and disarm the man. A demonstrator then throws the weapon off an overpass:
The Francisco Fajardo highway was blocked by protesters in the Bello Monte neighbourhood:
That demonstration was attacked by pro-regime forces on motorcycles (known colloquially as colectivos armados [“armed collectives”]). The image below shows opposition protesters in the foreground and the pro-regime forces in the background:
The colectivo discharged their weapons, although it is not clear if any of them aimed for the protesters. The protesters were sent into a panic:
The colectivos are one of the regime’s most feared tools of repression. As civilians, colectivo members are not officially affiliated with any particular policing agency and are therefore unaccountable for their actions. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and local NGOs have observed colectivos attacking protesters within sight of complacent authorities on numerous occasions in the past.
As of 4:00 PM local time, confrontations continued on the Francisco Fajardo highway:
The video below shows NBP officers beating a protesters and leaving her unattended on the floor:
At Least Nine Injured; One With Bullet Wound
While the exact number of injured from today’s violence is not known, the most widely-cited figures place the number of protester injures at 9: eight from tear gas-related issues, and one from a bullet wound.
The video below shows National Assembly deputy Carlos Paparoni being pepper-sprayed while confront NBP officers:
At least a dozen people were arrested during the violence.
Borges: “The Time Is Now”, Calls for Elections in 2017
National Assembly president Julio Borges gave a press conference this evening in which he said that “the time and the moment” had come for the people in Venezuela, and that the fight against the Maduro regime could only end via general elections this year.
We want to firmly invite all Venezuelans [to protest]. The struggle against a government that acts outside of the constitution involves continuing to put pressure on all fronts: the streets, the universities (…) This is the time and the moment for the Venezuelan people. We have to rescue our dignity and our rights with strength (…) The force of the people must result in elections, liberty for political prisoners and respect for the National Assembly (…) we will carry on this struggle with international solidarity. Venezuela does not stand alone (…) In Venezuela, democracy has been broken, fractured, and we are here to tell Venezuelans that we will remain on the streets.
On the state of the Maduro regime, Borges said:
We’re living under the law of the jungle. The government does whatever it wants and has absolute power over the [state] institutions. If the government continues to ignore the law, it is up to us to put pressure in order to make the constitution and the law sovereign in Venezuela.
Borges also replied to comments Maduro made earlier in the evening. During a televised speech, Maduro assured viewers that Venezuela would see general elections in 2018, and that the PSUV would give the opposition “a beating” at the ballot boxes. Borges replied to the comments by saying:
Maduro has just said that we’ll have elections next year. What is he thinking? The elections should happen this year.
On the physical toll of today’s violence, Borges said that his office was aware of at least 50 injures. He said that the oldest victim was an 80-year-old man who suffered an eye injury. A 39-year-old suffered a gunshot wound, and six individuals suffered fractured bones.
From among the ranks of opposition figures, Richard Blanco, Milagro Guanero, Juan Guaido, Maria Corina Machado, Henrique Capriles, Henry Ramos Allup, Lilian Tintori and even Borges himself all suffered injuries in today’s protests.
Opposition Calls for More Protests on Thursday
National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara called on Caracas residents to take to the streets again this Thursday against the Maduro regime, starting at 10:00 AM on the Francisco Fajardo highway near Altamira.
Guevara called on the protesters to remain peaceful, and to “be like the drop of water that drips on the rock until it breaks”.
NA To Vote on Removing TSJ Magistrates Tomorrow
The National Assembly will attempt to hold a meeting tomorrow in which it will vote on removing Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) magistrates from the court’s Constitutional Chamber over their rulings last week against the legislative branch.
Article 265 of the constitution grants the National Assembly the power to “remove magistrates from the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia“ via a vote in parliament so long as the Poder Ciudadano [roughly, “Citizen Power”] identifies “serious flaws” with the magistrates.
Venezuela has five branches of government. The Poder Ciudano is one of them. It is made up of the Republican Moral Council, which is a body made up by the People’s Defender, the Attorney General and the Comptroller General of the Republic. The Poder Ciudano and the Republican Moral Council are little-known and little-understood institutions.
The vote was originally scheduled to take place today, but the disturbances in the city prevented it from taking place.
TSJ: Parliament Can’t Vote Us Out
The head magistrate of the TSJ, Maikel Moreno, said today that the National Assembly “lacks the legitimacy” needed to remove magistrates from the top court as per the constitution, and as a result cannot hold its planned vote tomorrow. Moreno made the announcement through his Twitter account.
Moreno also stressed that in order for the National Assembly to even hold a vote on removing magistrates, the Poder Ciudano had to forward the individual cases to the legislature, an unlikely scenario given the Maduro regime’s choke-hold on that institution.
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