The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), the country’s opposition bloc, held a press conference today in which it announced the detail of its next street action against the Maduro regime: an event scheduled for tomorrow that they are calling the Gran Plantón Nacional [Great National Sit-in].
The Gran Plantón Nacional will involve sit-ins in the capitals of the country’s 24 states. The sit-ins will occur in a central location in each city, ideally a main road artery, and are scheduled to take place for the whole day.
After the press conference, National Assembly vice-president Freddy Guevara published a list of eight key points regarding the protest on his Twitter account, which you can see below along with my translation:
Great National Sit-in Against the Dictatorship #24A
This type of protest has never taken place in massive form in Venezuela, which necessitates explanation.
There will be 24 sit-ins at the national level: one in each state that will take place peacefully and last the whole day. Let us repeat: all day.
We must leave from different points together at 10:00 AM and then meet for one big sit-in in each state.
In Caracas, the sit-in will take place on the Francisco Fajardo highway at the Altamira interchange. Starting at 10:00 AM, we will leave from: La Villa, Santa Monica, [Plaza] Brion, Caurimare, Santa Fe, Altamira, Unicentro El Marquez, Altamira [sic].
The sit-in will take place with out bodies. We will “plant ourselves” peacefully in the main road artery of each state. Cars or other obstacles will not be used in this protest, and it will take place in one central location, not in isolated streets.
This is a protest of resistance that requires preparation: hydration, food, comfortable clothing, cell phone batteries. etc.
This is a protest of resistance, not a party, so no beer, dancing, or things like that.
[This protest] is taking [our protest] up to another level: it is the time to demonstrate not only to the regime but to ourselves that we are willing and ready to take these protests to a new level. Taking to the streets without return or permanently requires compromise, preparation and organization. Tomorrow we will demonstrate our capacity for resistance.
The sit-ins are a marked departure from previous opposition demonstrations, which usually involve marches to government buildings. In Caracas, these marches almost always end with violent repression from state authorities, as opposition supporters are banned from protesting in the western part of Caracas, which is where most government buildings are located.
Maduro Calls for Dialogue, Threatens Opposition Leaders with Prison
Speaking on his weekly Los Domingos con Maduro television show earlier, Maduro signaled that he was ready to hold talks with the opposition. In typical fashion, Maduro threatened opposition leaders with prison at the same time, and said that his government was going to take “decisive measures” against the opposition.
Maduro said that he “wanted to talk to” a group of international mediators headed by former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, so he asked that they visit the country “right now”. Maduro continued:
We want peace. We want a dialogue (…) smart people understand one another when they talk. I want to talk and I want to find peace formulas so that they [the opposition] will abandon their coupist, violent ways.
The PSUV has agreed to hold talks with the opposition in the past, and has repeatedly failed to meet its promises. During the latest round of talks at the end of 2016, the PSUV promised the opposition that it would release 71 prisoners. When the PSUV reneged, the opposition abandoned the talks.
During the same show, Maduro threatened opposition figures Tomas Guanipa and Jose Guerra with prison, saying:
They will be behind bars sooner or later.
He also accused Guerra, who is a National Assembly deputy, of “hiring a group of vandals” to loot the neighbourhood of El Valle on Thursday night. Maduro did not provide any evidence for his claim, which was broadcast to millions of homes live.
They’re greatly underestimating us. You don’t know what we’re willing to do, and how far we’re willing to go. Attention, Bolivarians, revolutionary patriots: starting today, I will be dropping hints about the new historic breakout [desencadenante historico]. The right-wing has reached a stalemate (…) They have dared us. The right-wing has burned all of their ships and cannot go back. We won’t fall into a civil war. We’re heading towards a great popular process that requires a lot of conscience.
Maduro Appears to Call for Constituent Assembly
During the same show, Maduro appeared to have called for a Constituent Assembly, which under Venezuelan law would be tasked with creating a new Constitution.
Below, a clip from the program showing the moment when Maduro made the comments:
Maduro: … we have to push for a popular constituent process through the electoral and peaceful way in order to reform the Republic through a popular national constituent assembly, made up of workers, farmers, Indigenous people, home makers, fishermen and fisher-women, and students. A popular National Assembly made up of workers and farmers. And youth.
It is not possible to discern if Maduro was talking about a Constituent Assembly or just a new National Assembly, since he referred to both institutions during his comments and appeared to not understand the difference between the two.
The last time that a Constituent Assembly was formed in Venezuela was in 1999. The result was the 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which is still in effect today.
PSUV Officials Booed, Jeered Out of El Valle
Yesterday afternoon, a number of high-ranking PSUV officials headed into the El Valle neighbourhood of Caracas on a public relations mission after the area suffered widespread looting and unrest on Thursday night, leaving at least 11 residents dead.
Minister of Nutrition Rodolfo Marco Torres, Minister for the Presidential Office Carmen Melendez, and Capital District Chief Carolina Cestari rode into El Valle in a convoy of SUVs in the afternoon hours to sell food to the residents of the area. The food came in the form of CLAP bags, which is the name of a subsidized food initiative.
Several videos captured the PSUV convoy beating a hasty retreat, as angry residents began shouting insults and anti-regime slogans at the vehicles once it became clear what was happening.
The video below shows residents banging pots and pan in protest as the convoy of expensive SUVs, realizing the hostility of the residents, begins to turn around and leave the area. In the video, you can hear residents taking issue with the fact that the PSUV will often provide resources to communities as PR measures, and with the amount of money the regime spends on vehicles for its officials:
The video below shows a different angle of the same scene. In the video, the woman recording yells, “The people are hungry! Get out!”:
NGO: 1365 Protest Arrests in 18 Days
The Foro Penal Venezolano [Venezuelan Penal Forum], an NGO that tracks crime and arrest statistics in Venezuela, updated its tally today on the number of arrests and continued detentions since massive anti-regime protests started nationwide on April 4.
Of the 1,365 arrests:
- 97 were released with conditions (usually a curfew, or a court order barring them from participating in future protest events).
- 451 were released unconditionally.
- 305 detainees are awaiting bail payment.
- 418 detainees are awaiting appearance before a judge.
- 54 have been sentenced to prison.
NGO: 146 Violations Against Press March March 28-April 22
The Instituto Prensa y Sociedad Venezuela [Venezuelan Press and Society Institute] (IPYS) announced today that it had received 146 complaints of violations against journalists in the country since March 28. Among the violations that journalists in Venezuela have felt during this time were:
- 31 physical assaults.
- 18 “acts of intimidation”.
- 10 incidents of theft of equipment.
IPYS also said that 11 journalists have been detained arbitrarily while covering the unrest, and that official authorities “abused their powers” 23 times to interfere with journalistic activities.
Meanwhile, a journalist named Robinson Rojas has been released from SEBIN custody after being held in detention for three hours yesterday. The Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa [National Syndicate of Press Workers] told El Nacional that Rojas’ detention was arbitrary.
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