At least four people were killed during anti-regime unrest yesterday, with a fifth dying in the overnight hours. The fatalities coming late in the day from Barinas and Merida states, and raise the death toll of the last three weeks of unrest to 26. The deaths capped a day of sit-ins across the country that the opposition dubbed El Gran Plantón Nacional [the Great National Sit-In].
In Merida state, a shooting suspected to have been perpetrated by pro-regime militias left four people injured and claimed the life of Jose Leonardo Sulbaran in the city of Merida. One of the people injured in the shooting, a man named Luis Enrique Marquez, died from his injuries overnight.
A student named Daniel Infante was also injured in the shooting in Merida, and is currently fighting for his life in a local hospital.
In the town of Barinitas, Barinas state, pro-regime militias fired on a group of opposition demonstrators, killing a 57-year-old man named Renzo Rodriguez and a 17-year-old named Neiver Torres. A local opposition politician said that four other demonstrators suffered gunshot injuries in the town.
In Lara state, a 19-year-old man named Johan Medina Aguilar was shot and killed during unrest in the city of El Tocuyo. Unrest in that state also left four National Guard soldiers injured in confrontations with demonstrators south of Barquisimeto, the state capital.
April has far outpaced the last round of nation-wide protests, which took place in 2014, in terms of fatalities. That year, approximately 42 Venezuelans died during a wave of unrest that lasted approximately three months, witch the month of March seeing the most deaths (21).
Pro-Regime Militias Photographed in Merida State
In Venezuela, pro-regime militias are known as colectivos armados [literally, “armed collectives”]. They play a key role in the policing of protests in Venezuela, because while official state authorities may show some restraint when repressing demonstrations for a number of reasons, colectivos act violently towards demonstrators with impunity.
Colectivos are characterized by their use of lethal weapons and by their preferred method of movement, which tends to be in large groups of motorcycles.
Below, an image showing some colectivo members in Merida yesterday. The man wearing the green shirt is carrying what appears to be a home-made projectile launcher of some sort, while the man with the red bandana is carrying what appears to be a shotgun:
The colectivos are an off-shoot of an earlier initiative called the circulos bolivarianos [Bolivarian Circles] as well as the union civico-militar [civil-military union], which is a regime doctrine that calls for the diffusion of the boundary between the military and civilian sphere. According to this doctrine, civilians bear a number of responsibilities that would traditionally fall on the military, including the armed defense of the nation.
Isturiz: Civil-Military Union “the Key” to Defeating Opposition
Former vice-president and current Minister of Communes Aristobulo Isturiz said today that the union civico-militar is “the key” to regaining “control” over the country and defeat the country’s political opposition.
Citing the importance of “revolutionary mobilization headed by social organizations [and] the civil-military union”, Isturiz said:
We have to keep up our revolutionary mobilization. Not just a march on the Bolivar Avenue [in Caracas]–that’s important too, but also at the level of the Unidades de Batalla Bolivar-Chavez [Bolivar-Chavez Battle Units, a kind of colectivo armado], communal councils and communes. [We have to have] control over the [national] territory….
Isturiz also called the ongoing anti-regime protests “terrorists acts”, and urged supporters to “exercise democratic authority” to make sure that “vandalism” does not take place anywhere in the country.
State-Run Media Refuses to Broadcast AG Comments on Violence
Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz held a press conference today in which she decried the violence that has shaken the country over the last three weeks, and criticized the conduct of state authorities in the repression of the opposition protests this month.
Diaz called the mass arrest of 38 protesters on April 19 in Nueva Esparta state “not normal” because there is no paper trial at all indicating when, where and how the arrests took place. Diaz called on the authorities holding the protesters to release them.
At the same time, Diaz took a jab at the juridical anarchy that has characterized Venezuela under Maduro, saying that the country needed due process rights in order to function properly. Diaz said:
Due process, even during a state of exception… one of the few rights that cannot be suspended is the right to due process. Article 337 of the Constitution states that the right to due process must be guaranteed (…) as attorney general, I am obligated to guarantee the right to due process.
Diaz’s repudiation of the state of law in Venezuela under Maduro is the second public parting from the official party line since she stated publicly on March 31 that a pair of Supreme Court decisions issued at around that time violated the Constitution. Such public dissent from a high-ranking PSUV official is unprecedented in the Maduro era.
Diaz also said:
Peace cannot be decreed. It must be built with actions, by setting examples, by teaching through example, and without any kind of political discrimination.
VTV, a state-owned television network, did not air Diaz’s comments today.
Opposition to March on Western Caracas Tomorrow
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) announced last night that it would try to march into western Caracas again tomorrow. The schedule for tomorrow’s protest is identical to those of April 10, 13 and 19 when the demonstrators were violently repressed by state security forces in the capital city, preventing them from reaching their goal.
There is a long-standing ban on opposition protesters in western Caracas, even though the regime will often hold its own demonstrations there. The western side of the city is comprised entirely of the Libertador municipality, which is under the control of PSUV mayor Jorge Rodriguez. The municipality holds many government buildings, including the Miraflores Palace, the People’s Defender office, the Supreme Court headquarters and the National Assembly, which is why opposition supporters are not allowed to enter the area en mass.
Unlike previous occassions, the MUD did not announce this time exactly what their final destination is for tomorrow. Instead, they said that it was either the headquarters of the Supreme Court, the Consejo Nacional Electoral [National Electoral Council] (CNE), or the People’s Defender office. By leaving the final destination of the march unclear, the opposition hopes to give the regime less information with which to prepare the repression.
Caracas Metropolitan Police Commissioner Shot Overnight
Caracas Metropolitan Police Commissioner Robinson Navarro was shot overnight during confrontations that took place in the El Guarataro sector of the city. According to El Nacional, Navarro was injured during a confrontation involving “security forces and delinquents in the area”. Navarro was shot in the leg.
Below, a video of a shooting on the San Martin avenue of El Guarataro. It is not clear if this is the shooting in which Navarro was injured:
OAS to Discuss Venezuelan Crisis Tomorrow
The permanent council of the Organization of American States (OAS) will hold an extraordinary session tomorrow to discuss the ongoing Venezuelan crisis. The meeting will be held at the request of 16 countries: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and the United States.
The last effort to discuss the Venezuelan crisis, attempted on April 3, was frustrated by permanent council president Diego Pary, of Bolivia. Bolivia is one of the few remaining allies of the Maduro regime in Latin America, alongside Ecuador and Nicaragua.
Statue of Chavez Burned in Carabobo Town
A statue of Hugo Chavez in the town of Mariara, Carabobo state was burned overnight. Pictures shared on Twitter by the town’s residents show the heavily charred statue. A pile of ashes on the floor at the statue’s front suggests the origin of the fire:
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