Tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas today in the second mass protest this week, braving the repressive arm of the Maduro regime to voice their discontent with the ongoing crisis in the country. For more than four hours, opposition supporters squared off against authorities in a pitched battle on the Francisco Fajardo highway, virtually shutting down the entire city for the day.
The protesters began the morning by marching onto the highway in an attempt to reach the western part of Caracas. The demonstrators hoped to reach the People’s Defender office. The highway is one of the main arteries of Caracas, and cuts the city roughly in half from east to west. A heavy National Guard (NG) and National Bolivarian Police (NBP) presence on the highway stopped the demonstrators from reaching their destination, and resulted in intense skirmishes that lasted most of the afternoon.
The video below shows the two sides squaring off. The video shows demonstrators in the background (towards the east) and security forces in the foreground (towards the west). Note the heavy presence of tear gas:
A line of NG soldiers advancing on protesters and arresting a young woman:
The images below shows a mass of opposition protesters early in the morning as they set out for the Francisco Fajardo highway:
The video below shows demonstrators on the highway charging a detachment of NBP officers, forcing them to retreat:
The video below shows protesters fighting against a ballena [“whale”] belonging to the NBP. The ballena is a mobile high-pressure water canon that is ubiquitous in Venezuelan protests:
The video below appears to show the same ballena in action from a different angle:
The video below shows a group of NBP officers savagely beating a protester in the Chacao neighbourhood of the city:
The video below shows protesters on the receiving end of tear gas canisters. The video features National Assembly vice-president Freddy Guevara towards the end (in white t-shirt):
The video below shows deputy Freddy Guevara helping a man escape from NG capture. In the video, Guevara (white shirt) helps pull a man away from two NG soldiers while saying, “Leave him alone!”. When the man escapes, Guevara throws his hands up in the air and asks the soldiers, “Are you insane?”:
The mayor of the Chacao municipality in Caracas, Ramon Muchacho, estimated that at least 18 protesters sustained injuries during today’s clashes. The injures ranged from asphyxiation caused by tear gas to lacerations from rubber pellets.
Vice-President Tareck El Aissami announced late this evening that at least 21 people were arrested in Caracas during today’s unrest. El Aissami said that the protesters had attempted to “overthrow the government”, but that “peace and the Constitution” had prevailed.
Opposition Vows to “Double” Numbers in Saturday Protest
National Assembly vice-president Freddy Guevara spoke to the media late this evening and called on Venezuelans to take to the streets of Caracas once more this coming Saturday. Guevara said that “the struggle has entered a new stage”, and that the opposition would not give up “until we achieve change” in the country.
On Saturday’s protest, Guevara said:
In Caracas, the rally point will be the Francisco de Miranda avenue. In the interior of the country, pay attention for [more information] that will become available in each state.
The purpose of the march is to put pressure on Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) magistrates to resign from their positions after issuing a pair of decisions last week that effectively killed the legislative branch in the country.
PSUV, Defiant, Digs In
PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello suggested to reporters today that not even a bloody civil war would remove the ruling party from power. Cabello said:
Not even blood will bring change to Venezuela.
Freddy Bernal, a high-ranking PSUV official, asserted that the regime supporters are willing to take up arms in case of a change in government in Venezuela:
If the moment comes for every man and woman in this country to pick up a Kalashnikov [rifle] to defend Venezuela, we would be willing to do it. Don’t be confused because we march with flags: we would turn our happiness into liberating rage. We’d send them [the opposition] to hell and restore order in this country.
Minister of Communes and former vice-president Aristobulo Isturiz told a crowd of supporters in Caracas:
We’ve been here all here saying the same thing: Si se prende el peo, con Maduro me resteo [a crass rhyme that roughly means, “If the shit hits the fan, Maduro’s my man”]. We want to tell them [the opposition] that we understand that the shit is hitting the fan and Maduro is our man (…) we are going to defend our independence with blood if necessary. We will defeat them.
Maduro: “Absolute Peace and Calm” in Caracas
While thousands of protesters fought National Guard and National Bolivarian Police forces in the most intense confrontations the city has seen in years, Maduro told a small crowd at regime event that the city was in fact experiencing “absolute peace and calm”.
At the same time, Maduro said that was “ready 24 hours a day” to sit down and talk “with anyone”. He continued by saying:
It is the hour of love, not hatred. It is the hour of unity, not division. It is the hour of peace, not violence. This is what our hearts have decided.
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