Opposition supporters took to the streets of their cities and towns today as weeks of anti-regime demonstrations spill into their second month.
The largest opposition demonstrations were in Caracas, where the opposition rallied two separate crowds of supporters with the goal of having one march to the offices of the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), the nation’s top court, and the other march to the offices of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), the body in charge of holding elections.
Opposition supporters began meeting at different points of the city starting at around 9:30 AM this morning. As is usually the case when the opposition holds demonstrations in Caracas, the city’s subway system experienced extensive station shutdowns today, with 30 stations (65% of the system shut down to hinder protester movement.
The neighbourhoods of Montalban and El Paraiso were the first to experience repression via tear gas and rubber pellets, as overzealous security forces in the area attempted to disperse the spattering of demonstrators that had just begun to gather in those areas.
Below, an image of tear gas near a mall in the El Paraiso neighbourhood:
National Assembly deputy Jose Manuel Olivares was leading a group of demonstrators in the area when he was struck in the head by a tear gas canister, a wound for which he would later receive 12 stitches”
The video below shows state security forces firing tear gas at protests in El Paraiso this morning:
In the Montalban neighbourhood, protesters burned a motorcycle. The tweet accompanying the video claims that the motorcycle belonged to a member of a colectivo armado, a pro-regime militia:
Protests Marked by Repression
As in previous occassions, the regime’s official repressive arms–the National Bolivarian Police and the National Guard–were out in full force today to repress the opposition demonstrators.
The video below shows a National Guard armored truck and soldiers advancing on a street in El Paraiso:
The video below shows National Bolivarian Police officers in action in El Paraiso in the mid-afternoon:
The video below shows protesters and state security forces facing off in the La Castellana neighbourhood in the late afternoon. The video also shows Green Cross medical volunteers carrying a protester away who appears to have been injured:
Chaos As Protesters Break Through La Carlota Perimter Fence
At around 5:00 PM, a group of protesters broke through the perimeter fence of the La Carlota military air base, which is located on the Francisco Fajardo highway near Altamira.
Below, a video showing the crowd tearing the fence down:
Another video of the same event:
The assault on the perimeter fence resulted in an immediate response from security forces, which charged protesters on the highway with armored trucks and high-pressure water cannons:
Below, the National Guard forces withdrawing before overwhelming protester numbers:
The assault on La Carlota resulted in a frenzy of activity inside the air base, as approximately one dozen aircraft–mostly private jets–were hurriedly flown out, presumably to spend the night in a safer location.
Maduro Calls for “Popular” Constituent Assembly
Speaking at a regime rally on the Bolivar avenue in Caracas, Maduro formally called for the formation of a “popular” constituent assembly, which could be tasked with modifying the Constitution in ways that could drastically re-shape the country. Since the constituent assembly described by Maduro does not exist either in the Constitution or in Venezuelan legal history, details on the initiative are scarce.
Maduro suggested that one of the goals of the assembly would be to cement many of the Bolivarian revolution’s social programs into the Constitution. Maduro said:
I want to constitutionalize [sic] every social program so that no one can get rid of them later.
The last time that a constituent assembly was formed in Venezuela was in 1999. The assembly drafted the document that would become the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which is the current constitution.
While Maduro said that the members of the constituent assembly would be “elected directly by the people” suggesting a general vote, he later said that different groups would be allotted a set number of representatives. This move would allow the regime to exercise control over the membership of the assembly, since they would be the ones to decide which groups are allotted representatives.
I’m calling for a popular constituent [assembly], not an [assembly] of political parties or elites. An [assembly] of the citizen, the workers, communal, farmer, a feminist [assembly], of youth, of students, an indigenous [assembly]. But above all else, brothers, an [assembly] that is profoundly working class, profoundly communal. I’m calling on the communes and the misiones [social assistance programs].
Calling the National Assembly “rotten”, Maduro also said:
Do you want fear? Constituent [assembly]! Do you want peace? Constituent [assembly]! Do you want elections? Constituent [assembly]!… we need to modify the state, and above all else the rotten National Assembly that we have here.
Maduro called on his supporters to “not fail him” at this crucial moment of the Bolivarian revolution:
The day has come, brothers. Do not fail me. Do not fail Chavez. Do not fail the fatherland…
MUD Calls Constituent Assembly”Fraud”, Calls for All-Out Rebellion
The president of the National Assembly, Julio Borges, held a press conference at approximately 7:15 PM in which he called for Venezuelans to “lock down” the streets of their cities starting at 6:00 AM tomorrow.
In his most sternly-worded public speech yet, Borges called on regime officials to stop “sinking” alongside Maduro, and to “rebel” against his authoritarian rule.
Speaking on Maduro’s “constituent assembly” announcement, Borges said:
What Maduro presented today is much worse than what we had warned about. This is Nicolas Maduro dissolving democracy and the Republic (…) it is a fraud designed to trick people with a mechanism that seeks nothing but to make the crisis in Venezuela worse.
Borges also said that the announcement was yet another sign that an increasingly desperate Maduro was running out of options:
Do not make the mistake of believing that this is a step taking by a president or a government that is strong. Maduro is fleeing towards a cliff, running away from a Venezuelan people who long for liberty.
During the same press conference, Borges said that the National Assembly would meet tomorrow to discuss the ongoing crisis in the country, and that the opposition would announce the details of a “mega street action” scheduled for Wednesday.
Artist Conjures Guernica in Latest Piece
Eduardo Sanabria, a Venezuelan artist known as EDO, revealed a piece called “Venezuela El Horror” [Venezuela the Horror] last week, a digital work à la “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso, re-purposed for the Venezuelan context.
Below, the image:
This morning, a group of people put up a paper version of the work in the in the Altamira and Las Mercedes neighbourhoods in Caracas:
Arguably one of Picasso’s most famous images, “Guernica” was painted in 1937 and is a striking rendition of the bombing of Guernica by fascist forces that same year.
EDO’s version contains images specific to the Venezuelan context, including a distraught Simon Bolivar, Venezuelan flags, and state security forces brutalizing a mass of citizens.
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