Musicians gathered to protest the Maduro regime by playing their instruments in Altamira’s Plaza Francia today, as the protests against the Venezuelan president push into their second month.
Below, a video of the crowd of musicians and supporters in Altamira:
The video below shows a group of children playing a Venezuelan folk song in Altamira:
More images from today’s demonstration in Altamira:
Padriono Lopez: Leopoldo Lopez’s Well-Being is My Responsibility
Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez attempted to ease ongoing fears that opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is either extremely ill or dead by taking full responsibility over his well-being. Leopoldo is currently serving a 14 year prison sentence in the Ramo Verde military prison. Last week, a rumour that Leopoldo had died in custody was put to rest with a hastily-produced video showing Leopoldo in his cell in Ramo Verde.
On Leopoldo’s current condition, Padrino Lopez said:
I can only say that the inmate is enjoying good health and all of his rights.
Until this afternoon, Leopoldo had been held incommunicado for 35 days. He had no contact with anyone outside of the prison. His family and lawyers have not been allowed to visit him.
Padrino Lopez also said that the military had “indisputable support” for Maduro’s Communal Constituent Assembly, a process that the opposition claims will result in a new Constitution that will entrench the dictatorship in Venezuela.
Leopoldo Makes Contact with World After 35 Days in Isolation
Human rights activist Lilian Tintori was allowed to visit her husband Leopoldo Lopez in the Ramo Verde military prison today, becoming the first person outside the prison walls to see Lopez in 35 days. The news was confirmed by National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara through a tweet this morning:
We are awaiting @liliantintori’s exit from Ramo Verde so that she can tell us about Leopoldo’s state after the inhuman isolation to which he has been subject.
Tintori held a press conference outside of the prison after seeing her husband. She said:
First of all, Leopoldo says “thank you!” to everyone who worried about him and for all the messages of support (…) Leopoldo is doing well. He’s healthy, steadfast, and he’s still being held in isolation and incommunicado.
When Tintori told Leopoldo about the month-long protests that have shaken Venezuela and pushed the Maduro regime into a corner, Lopez said:
Now I understand why they wouldn’t let you come in here for so long. They don’t want me to know what is happening in Venezuela. They don’t want me to know that people are on the streets protesting.
At one point during the conference, a reporter asked Tintori if the video that came out on Wednesday was really of Leopoldo, since some had theorized that the video had been somehow doctored or shot with a body double. Tintori said:
I asked Leopoldo if they recorded him.And do you know what he told me? “They record me all the time”. He’s being recorded all the time. That’s why I’ll say again that that video was never for us evidence that he was alive.
Tintori also told reporters about some of the arbitrary and severe punishment that Lopez has been the victim of while in custody. She talked about a time when Lopez had to have an emergency dental procedure done that required anesthetic. After the procedure, Lopez was taken to his cell and he was instructed by the doctor to rest until the pain an inflammation in his mouth subsidized.
A few minutes after the surgery, a guard came into Lopez’s cell and ordered him to go to the yard for exercise. When Lopez reminded the guard that he had just had surgery and that he needed to rest, Lopez was banned from receiving visits for 15 days.
MUD Rejects Gov’t Call to Join CCA, Will March All Week
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) has rejected a regime call to join the working groups tasked with creating the Communal Constituent Assembly (CCA), a process that the opposition argues is meant to dismantle democracy in Venezuela once and for all. The working group meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, and is likely to go on without MUD assistance.
Miranda state governor made the MUD’s position clear during a press conference earlier today:
The [MUD] will not go to that meeting. We are going to march to the Ministry of Education. We will go to Mr. Jaua’s office, alongside the people, to remind him of the Constitution (…) we will not go to a meeting in an air-conditioned room to become part of a fraud.
Minister of Education Elias Jaua has been appointed by the regime to head the creation of the CCA.
On the possibility that the regime will simply move ahead with the CCA and create a new constitution, Capriles said:
This country might end up with two Constitutions. Venezuela would become an ungovernable country.
Aside from tomorrow’s march, the MUD also unveiled its schedule of protest action for the week:
- Monday: March to the Ministry of Education
- Tuesday: Public National Assembly session (location yet to be announced)
- Wednesday: March to the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) [Supreme Court] “in rejection of the coup d’eat”.
- Thursday: Rally announcing the MUD’s position on recent developments
- Friday: “Great national activity”, the details of which have yet be announced.
251 Civilians to go Before Military Tribunals in Carabobo State
Major General Jesus Suarez Chourio, the ranking officer in charge of the military defense region that includes Carabobo state, announced today that 251 civilians will appear before military tribunals for protesting against the Maduro regime over the past week. Chourio also revealed that 780 people had been arrested in the state during last week’s unrest, but it is not clear if all of them will be processed by the military.
The use of military tribunals to try civilians is patently illegal in Venezuela. However, recent anti-regime statements by Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz may have signaled to the Maduro regime that the country’s legal system may be unwilling to continue the blatant repression of protesters, which may explain the regime’s increasing use of military tribunals.
El Estimulo Profiles “The Children of the Resistance”
El Estimulo, a newspaper out of Lara state, published an article on Friday titled “The Children of the Resistance” profiling another tragedy born out of the Maduro regime’s unwillingness to govern: child protesters.
The article contains interviews with children who were observed protesting in Caracas last week. I’ve translated selected sections below.
The section below describes an interaction with two children, aged 13 and 15, who were on their way to the front lines of a skirmish between protesters and the National Guard last week (likely on Wednesday):
“We’re here because we want change and a better country. That’s why we have to fight, and this president doesn’t want to help us. We want change”, insists the 13-year-old. They refuse to give their names. They explain that they are from El Paraiso and that they came to Altamira on a bus. They’re prepared. The 15-year-old has a thick glove on his right hand–the one he uses to throw tear gas canister back–and a rock firmly in his left. He also uses a hat, goggles and a scarf. The 13-year-old has a helmet, but no gloves. He needs both hands free. They defend themselves with a slingshot. There, closer to the Francisco de Miranda avenue than to the skirmish, they’ve got it loaded. That’s what the marbles are for.
They are joined by a third who says his name is Jose Felix, from Petare. He says that he is also 13 year old, but he’s barely over a meter tall. He looks seven. He has nothing to protect him. Not even a mix of bicarbonate and water, which helps to counteract the sting of the gases. He doesn’t need it. Later, he’s seen wearing a hood and walking out of a crowd. He had found a wooden shield and was running from the Del Avila avenue to South [Avenue] yelling: “They’re coming from that side!”. He was talking about the [National] Guard. The warning helped those up the street to move and evade the toxic clouds.
In another section of the article, a university student from the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello told El Estimulo that she often sees children at protests. The anonymous student told the newspaper that she’s aware of at least one group of child protesters who call themselves the “Resistencia del 23 de Enero“, named after a barrio in Caracas. The student said that the children ask other protesters for food, and that “they’re barefoot and very unkempt”.
Below, another translated section of the article:
A murmur begins to be heard. It sounds like pots and pans, but it’s not. The metal sounds different. Little by little, it gets louder. It is the thunder of the wall that protects the South Altamira field. The sound isn’t bothersome. It is a call to stand firm. It grows louder as lines of tear gas are drawn over the heads of the protesters. That’s when Carlos Veliz reveals himself. He is from Guatire and he is 16 years old. “I’m here because I want to defend my future. If we don’t do it now, we’re not going to have anything late. Only dictatorship, and then what will I do?”. Carlos has a mission in this battle although he’s not sure how to pronounce it: “My job is to throw rocks and… Morrocoy cocktails [he means “Molotov cocktails”]. Whatever they’re called. I learned about that here. You make them with a bit of gasoline and soil so that it expands”.
This is shift work. Whole some emerge with reddened and sweaty faces, other head down to the area around the Francisco de Fajardo highway to keep up the fight. Marco Murillo, 14, appeared with a strained look, twisted, fists clenched and shoulder square. He lives on the highway connect Petare and Guarenas and he also arrived here on foot. “I don’t like how the country is. You have to put up with a lot of lines”. He doesn’t know how to make Molotov cocktails, but he does know how to throw them. His job is also to return tear gas to the [National] Guard, or to take [Molotov cocktails] up to the “shield-bearers”. “My only protection are my gloves and my mask, but the filter is damaged”. That day he only had one glove on and in his naked hand he held a rock.
Junior Ortiz, 12, plays with a rock. He was throwing it up in the air and catching it with the same hand. His only protection was his helmet and as he himself put it: his strength. “I throw rocks however I can and I hang on however I can, too”. He says he protests because he’s fighting for his country and because he likes adrenaline. He came from the Simon Rodriguez neighbourhood–near the Waraira Repano cable car–with his father and his uncle, but he was always seen alone.
The article ends with this interaction between the journalist and two children:
They were on the Victoria avenue when the repression began on May 1. There were two of them, both said they were called Jose and that they were brothers. They always roam the area between International and El Progreso streets. One said that he was 13 years old and the other 11. They arrived just after a the National Bolivarian Police had launched a volley of tear gas at protesters.
They were excited. They both had rocks in their hands. The eldest loaded his slingshot with a rock every time he heard and explosion.
Aren’t you too young to be here?
That doesn’t matter.
And why did you come?
Because we are hungry.
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