Venezuelans mourned the death of Juan Pablo Pernalete today, the 20-year-old student who was killed by security forces yesterday during a protest in Caracas.
Pernalete was killed in the Altamira neighbourhood of Caracas yesterday when a state security officer–likely a National Guard soldier–fired a tear gas canister directly at his chest from very close proximity. The canister struck him on the left side of the chest and stopped his heart.
Speaking at a memorial service, a student leader by the name of Samuel Diaz said:
Juan Pablo is a reflection of the country that we want and not the one we have right now.
In Caracas, students marched in black through the streets of Caracas and attended rallies, prayer sessions and other memorials mourning Pernalete’s killing.
Below, the students marching near Los Ruices, Caracas at approximately 3:30 PM local time:
Below, another shot of the student march:
The picture below was taken at a simultaneous march attended by the general public. The tweet reads: “We remember Juan Pablo Pernalete on the streets, where he shouted ‘Freedom!’ last”:
Juan Vicente Leon, an economist and the head of the Datanalisis polling firm, spoke on Pernalete’s death yesterday through his Twitter account, saying:
Juan Pablo Pernalete was 20 years old. His whole life ahead of him, just like our own sons. He did not die, he was murdered, just like they murdered democracy.
Friend Tells Reporters of Juan Pablo’s Passing
A video shared on Twitter by HispanoPost captured the moment reporters questioned Cesar Rodriguez, one of Pernalete’s friends, about his death. Rodriguez claims to have taken Pernalete to a local clinic after he was mortally wounded at yesterday’s protest in Caracas.
Below, the video along with my translation:
Man: … load him. The doctors wanted to take him, [unintelligible]. Just then, a motorcycle came by. We put him on the motorcycle and we all came down here. In Altamira we changed motorcycles because there were three of us on motorcycles, and then we came here to the Chacao Police headquarters. I mean, to the Chacao clinic [SaludChacao].
Reporter: So you weren’t standing right beside him when this happened, but you noticed that someone was on the floor…
Man: Exactly. And when I went to see, I saw that it was him.
Reporter: Do you know exactly where the tear gas canister hit him?
Man: According to them, it was on his chest. His nipple.
Reporter: Is he a friend of yours?
Reporter: What’s your full name?
Man: Cesar Rodriguez.
Reporter: What are your thoughts on this, Cesar? Is this the first time that something has happened to someone you know? [I think the reporter means, “Is this the first time that someone you know has been killed?]
Cesar: No. It’s horrible. Horrible. Now they’ve taken everything from us. I don’t what else these motherfuckers are going to take from us.
Reporter: Do you think you will continue to come out to these protests?
Cesar: I don’t know. I have to digest all of this first.
Juan Pablo’s Aunt Speaks on Nephew’s Death
A video posted on YouTube earlier today shows Selva Serena, Juan Pablo Pernalete’s aunt, speaking about her nephew’s death yesterday. In the teary-eyed interview, Serena says that she is “disappointed” in the government for “taking away our lives” through Juan Pablo’s killing.
Below, the video along with my translation:
Serena: [unintelligible] … she called me and said, “Tell my mom that they killed Juan Pablo at the march”. [unintelligible] … we came running here [unintelligible] the impact was so strong that it destroyed his heart.
Reporter: Have they given you the autopsy results?
Serena: My sister’s in there right now figuring that out. We haven’t gotten anything yet.
Reporter: Why did he go out to protest? Was it his first time?
Serena: He’d been going out for a few days. All he wanted was a free country. He said that he wanted to fight because if he didn’t he could get killed on the street for his cell phone or for any reason, so he wanted to fight for a free country. For a cause that I now feel is meaningless.
Reporter: What do you think about security forces acting in this way? [Note: Juan Pablo was killed by a tear gas canister fired at his chest from close proximity by a state security officer].
Serena: Look, I’m so disappointed with the [state] security [forces] in this country. I’m completely disappointed with the government. They’ve taken our lives, our dreams, and our willingness to fight away from my family and me… he was my nephew.
I think that this country–that Caracas is the most dangerous city in the world. And the [National] Guard is killing students. Why don’t they go into a slum and kill criminals? Why did [they have to kill] a nice person who just wanted a better future? The only thing he wanted was to be free in his country. This is the only weapon that my nephew used [holds up a basketball]. He loved to play [sports]. He went to the gym. He went to school. He walked his dogs. That’s all he did. He didn’t smoke, he didn’t do drugs–nothing.
Yesterday, that robbed him of all his dreams. The rage that I feel is horrible. I feel a great deal of indignation. I think this country is getting worse every day.
Public Defender’s Son Breaks with Father in Facebook Video
Late last night, Yibram Saab posted a video on YouTube in which he broke from his father, People’s Defender Tarek William Saab, over his handling of the Venezuelan crisis. In the stunning rebuke, Yibram laments the “break in the constitutional order” in Venezuela, and calls on his father to “do the right thing” in the face of the “brutal” repression that peaceful protesters face at the hands of state security agents.
In the hours before the video was posted, rumours began to spread through social media that Yibram had attended an anti-regime demonstration in Caracas that day. Yibram confirmed the fact in the video.
The video sent shockwaves through social media, and was viewed more than one million times within 24 hours of being posted.
Yibram: As a citizen and a law student, I observe with concern the rupture of the constitutional order in Venezuela, which was caused by a ruling from the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [Supreme Court]. This is why I am fixing my position on this matter before the country through this letter freely, as a Venezuelan and as the eldest son of the People’s Defender, Tarek William Saab,my father.
First, I want to dispel the rumours that my sister Sofia, 18, my younger brother, 14, and I have been threatened in any way [to make this statement]. I am doing this motivated by the values that my father taught me, and for which I am thankful.
Second, I condemn the brutal repression by the state security forces, of which I became a victim today, as did Juan Pablo Pernalete, a 20 year old university student whose life was taken away by the terrible and inhumane use of tear gas via impact to the chest. That could have been me.
Lastly, I want to speak directly to my father. Dad: right now, you have the power to put an end to the injustice that has sunk this country. I ask you as your son, and in the name of the Venezuela that you serve, that you consider this and do what you have to do. I understand you. I know that it’s not easy, but it is the right thing to do.
I end by asking the media and politicians to respect my privacy and that of my siblings.
Cracas, April 26 2017. Yibram Saab [Forninono? Whatever his mother’s maiden name is]. National I.D. number 21.706.866. Venezuelan. Thank you.
The People’s Defender is a position similar to that of the ombudsman in English-speaking countries. As People’s Defender, Saab is responsible for fighting on behalf of Venezuelans whose human rights have been violated. However, he has remained largely silent on the systematic human rights abuses perpetrated by the Maduro regime, and is widely regarded by opposition supporters as being complicit in the regime’s crimes.
Saab: “I Love My Son”
Saab responded to his son’s video during a radio interview today. He said:
I love and adore my three children dearly. I am an exemplary father according to them and to all Venezuela. I am deeply human. My family is free to express their opinion. I respect, love and adore him. Whether he states his opinions or not, he is my beloved son, and I respect him.
Maduro: “To Hell!” With the OAS
Maduro spoke publicly today for the first time after instructing Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez to announce Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Organization of American States (OAS) yesterday. With the announcement, Venezuela became the first country in the organization’s 69 year history to signal that it would voluntarily withdraw from the diplomatic body.
[Venezuela will not] recognize any decision by the OAS that violates international law. We are free! To hell with the OAS! To hell with [Secretary General] Luis Almagro!
Venezuela is in fact not yet “free” from the OAS. It must first submit its formal request to leave the organization in writing, and then wait 24 months before leaving. During those 24 months, the country will still be a member of the OAS, and must still adhere by all of the organization’s regulations.
The country’s withdrawal from the OAS continues a trend of isolation for the increasingly-repressive Maduro regime, which is now widely recognized in the region as authoritarian.
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