Opposition protesters were violently repressed by state security forces today as they attempted a peaceful march to the National Assembly building in western Caracas. The march was headed by a large group of parliamentarians, who marched locked in arms ahead of their supporters.

As of the publishing of this update, at least 230 protesters have been injured and one has been killed in skirmishes in and around the Altamira neighbourhood of Caracas. A 17-year-old named Armando Cañizales was killed in the Las Mercedes neighbourhood of at around 5:00 PM after being shot in the neck.

The march was announced yesterday by the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), although it kept the destination secret until late this morning in an attempt to keep security forces off-balance. However, given that the opposition has made nearly a dozen attempts to reach the western side of Caracas on the Francisco Fajardo highway over the last month, the National Guard correctly guessed that today’s march would have the same general goal and that it would use the same route.

The main mass of opposition supporters congregated at the Plaza Francia in Altamira starting at approximately 10:00 AM. From there, it walked south onto the Francisco Fajardo highway and began moving west at around the noon hour.

Below, images of the crowd as it began its march on the highway in a joyous mood:

Once the spearhead of the demonstration reached the El Rosal section of the highway, it was met by a National Guard force which began to fire tear gas, rubber bullets and high-pressure water at the crowd, eventually dispersing it.

Below, tear gas shrouds the front of the opposition march:

The video below shows the National Guard firing tear gas at demonstrators as it pushes them back along the highway. Protesters respond by returning the tear gas canisters and throwing rocks:

At one point, a group of protesters carrying makeshift wooden shields formed a phalanx in order to cover retreating protesters from tear gas and rubber pellet volleys:

Protesters retreating, under pressure from the National Guard:

As they withdrew, protesters erected hasty barricades in the hopes of slowing down or halting the National Guard advance. The barricades proved to be ineffective:

More videos of the skirmish on the highway:

The video below shows the size of the National Guard force that pushed the demonstrators back:

The image below shows spent tear gas canisters and other munitions littering a road in Caracas:

In a grotesque display of the painful division tearing the country apart, Maduro danced and laughed live on television with other high-ranking PSUV officials at an event about five kilometers away from where the repression was taking place:

Fighting Spills Over into Altamira

After the protesters were dispersed from the Francisco Fajardo highway by around 2:30 PM, fighting spilled over into the Altamira neighbourhood.

The video below shows National Guard soldiers on motorcycles retreating as a group of students charges them:

Protesters receiving–and returning–tear gas canisters:

The video below shows protesters and National Guard soldiers exchanging taunts and insults. At the end of the video, a man is overcome by tear gas:

The video below shows a National Guard truck on fire running over a group of demonstrators. The tweet says that one demonstrator died as a result, but this has not been confirmed by the national media:

The video below shows the same event as above, but from a different angle:

The video below shows two trucks deliberately running over demonstrators. At the end of the video, demonstrators carry a door from one of the trucks away:

The video below shows the moment protesters began to rip the door out of the truck:

Demonstrators posing with their trophy by the Altamira obelisk:

The video below shows National Guard soldiers firing tear gas into a building:

The video below shows a stunned, badly burned demonstrator being tended to be other protesters. The man was allegedly burned while protesters attempted to set fire to a National Guard motorcycle that they had captured:

The image below captured the moment the protester became engulfed in flames:

The video below shows more of the unrest in Altamira this afternoon:

One Killed, 230+ Injured in Caracas

A 17-year-old named Armando Cañizales was killed after he was shot in the neck during unrest in the Las Mercedes neighbourhood of the city.

The video below shows Armando being loaded into the back of an ambulance:

The Chacao municipality health authority announced that at least 97 people had been injured in the unrest as of 4:37 PM. By 6:30 PM, the number of injured in the Baruta and Chacao municipalities reached 230.

The video below shows the moment that a tear gas canister strikes a protester on the head, knocking him to the ground:

National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara was hit on the foot by a tear gas canister, and had to be carried away by demonstrators:

A protester also appeared to receive an injury to his foot somewhere in Caracas, and was led away by other demonstrators to receive medical care:

CNE Rubberstamps “Constituent Assembly” Process

The head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral [National Electoral Council] (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, held a brief press conference today in which she accepted without question Maduro’s proposal for what he calls a “Constituent Assembly“. The process–details of which are contradictory and unclear–was announced by Maduro on Monday, and could result in completely new constitution. The announcement was universally decried by opposition leaders, who called it a desperate move to kill democracy in Venezuela once and for all.

During the press conference, Lucena said:

What is beginning today–a new Constituent process–will consolidate the Republic and will take the country towards the peace that we all deserve.

Virtually every detail about Maduro’s “Constituent Assembly” process is unknown at this time. While Maduro announced on Monday that the assembly would be made up of approximately 250 individuals appointed by the PSUV, today he suggested that every member would actually be elected.

During a rally in Caracas today, Maduro said that the “Constituent Assembly” was a chance for the PSUV to defeat the opposition once again at the ballot box, after having suffered a stinging defeat in the 2015 parliamentary elections. Maduro said:

They [the opposition] got that circumstantial majority [in 2015]. I’ve always said it. Now we have an opportunity with this Constituent [Assembly] to return to the path of the popular Bolivarian and chavista victory. No one can abstain from voting!

Maduro also told supporters that the choice before Venezuela now was between war and peace:

I’ve officially activated the call for the [Constituent Assembly]. I’m giving you the power so that you can decide the destiny of the fatherland. Today, I’ve given the power to the people to decide if they want war or peace. The people should decide if they want guarimba [a local word meaning roughly “violent protest”] or if it wants the Constituent [Assembly]. The people should decide if they want violence or the Constituent [Assembly]. You decide.

Four Killed Due to Unrest in Last 36

At least four people have died as a result of the unrest in the country over the last 24 hours, raising the official number of dead from the protests to 34 when counting  Cañizales’ death today.

The Public Ministry confirmed that a 21 year old man named Yonathan Quintero died on the Villa Florida Avenue in Valencia, Carabobo state during an “irregular occurrence”. The term is often used by Venezuelan authorities to mean a disturbance of some kind, strongly suggesting that the man died as a result of a protest.

Two other people died in Carabobo state last night when the bus they were riding flipped trying to avoid a barricade. Yesterday in particular saw protesters erect a large amount of barricades throughout the country.  10 other passengers were injured in the crash.

In Caracas, a 30-year-old man named Carlos Eduardo Aranguren was killed on the Baloa Bridge in the Petare neighbourhood at approximately 8:00 AM. Aranguren left his home that morning to buy cheese when he came across a confrontation between National Guard soldiers and protesters. Aranguren was caught in the crossfire, and received two fatal gunshot wounds to his torso.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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2 thoughts on “05.03.17: War and Peace

  1. Pingback: 02.14.18: Rain, Thunder and Lighting | In Venezuela

  2. Pingback: 04.12.18: The Eve of the Summit | In Venezuela

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