The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), Venezuela’s opposition bloc, held a demonstration today in Caracas in rejection of Maduro’s call to participate in the creation of the Communal Constituent Assembly (CCA), a process that the opposition argues will cement dictatorial rule in the country. Instead of attending the first of the CCA’s working group meeting in the Miraflores Palace today, the opposition held rallies across the country and attempted a march in Caracas.
As in all previous attempts to march into western Caracas, the opposition was violently repressed by National Guard and National Bolivarian Police officers before they could reach their destination, which today was the Ministry of Education. The main flashpoints today were the Francisco Fajardo highway near Bello Monte, and the Chacaito neighbourhood.
The video below shows National Guard soldiers arriving on the Francisco Fajardo highway and preparing for the arrival of opposition demonstrators:
The video below shows a group of National Guard soldiers in hot pursuit of a man on a motorcycle on the Francisco Fajardo highway. The soldiers knock the man off his bike and arrest him:
The video below shows protesters getting sprayed by ballenas [“whales”], which are high-pressure water cannon trucks:
In the early afternoon, National Assembly deputy Rafael Guzman was recorded interacting with National Bolivarian Police officers. In the video, Guzman (wearing yellow) can be seen walking away from a group of officers. As he does so, a tear gas canister whizzes by his feet. Deputy Guzman, quick on his feet, kicks it back:
The video below shows a group of protesters chasing motorised National Bolivarian Police officers away. One of the officers falls of his/her bike, and is subsequently beaten by protesters. This video was likely recorded in El Rosal, Caracas:
The video below shows escuderos [shield-bearers] in action in Chacaito. The escuderos have become a common sight in in recent weeks. The shields are usually made of tin sheets or wood, and are used primarily to protect the shield-bearer from tear gas canisters, which the authorities often incorrectly fire directly at protesters, increasing the possibility of serious injury or death:
Below, another video showing thick clouds of tear gas on a road in Chacaito:
The scene below was captured during the unrest in Chacaito. A protester armed with a violin plays the national anthem as tear gas and rubber bullets choke the air around him:
State authorities have been criticized by human rights organizations like Amnesty International for their indescriminate use of tear gas. In a dense, crowded city like Caracas, tear gas is particularly harmful because–since it is a gas–it cannot really be directed in any one direction, and instead floats about causing widespread harm.
In the video below, an elderly woman is led away from clouds of tear gas during a confrontation in the Victoria avenue in Caracas:
Fighting continued on the highway into the late afternoon:
Kindergarten Evacuated in Maracaibo Due to Tear Gas
The indiscriminate use of tear gas by state authorities forced the evacuation of the Casa Mia kindergarten in Maracaibo, Zulia state, as clouds of the toxic gas seeped into the building and began affecting the infants at the facility.
Below, a video showing Green Cross and other volunteers rushing the children to safety:
Elderly residents of the area also had to be evacuated. Below, another video of the evacuation:
Maria Corina Machado Tear Gassed in Plaza Brion
Maria Corina Machado, the head of the Vente Venezuela party, was tear gassed along with other demonstrators in the Plaza Brion in Caracas while holding a rally at the start of today’s march.
Below, Machado’s comments after the crowd of demonstrators was dispersed:
Machado: We have no rights. We’re in the Plaza Brion. We are unarmed citizens once again demanding our rights in a peaceful manner. [We want] a free and safe Venezuela. We’ve been attacked once again with tear gas. The youth are at the front, unarmed. Let the world world know that Venezuela has once more taken to the streets. Venezuela has once again taken to the streets, firmly, with dignity and without fear, and we will do so again.
There is no repression that can stop us. While they’re repressing us on the streets like this, Maduro is other there with a couple of corrupt criminals trying to take away the last power that the people have, which is the originating power [as per article 347 of the Constitution]. They are wrong! They are wrong! There is no tear gas, no repression that can stop us now.
National Assembly Deputies Pepper-Sprayed
National Assembly deputies Carlos Paparoni and Jorge Milan were pepper sprayed by National Guard soldiers while they sat atop a mobile wall and spoke to an officer at the scene.
At around the 1:40 mark, a National Guard officer can be heard telling the deputies to get off the wall. The deputies–or someone near them– tells the officer that all that they want to do is continue with their march. The discussion is not tense or hostile. At around 1:50, another soldier calmly walks up to the deputies and pepper sprays them.
Below, the video:
Infant Mortality Up 30.1%, Maternal 65.8% From 2015 to 2016
A bulletin published by the Ministry of Health today shows that 11,466 infants younger than one year old died in 2016, up 30.1% from 2015. In the same time period, the number of maternal fatalities jumped 65.8%. 756 pregnant women died in 2016, while 456 died in 2015.
The bulletin says that 16 of the country’s 23 states experienced “high concentrations of maternal fatalities”. They were Anzoátegui, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Bolívar, Carabobo, Falcón, Guárico, Lara, Miranda, Monagas, Portuguesa, Sucre, Táchira, Trujillo, Zulia, as well as the Capital District (Caracas).
The ongoing crisis is having a particularly harmful effect on the health of Venezuelans, as chronic shortages of food and medicine make illnesses more common and less treatable. The Maduro regime has repeatedly denied that there is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, and refuses to accept medical aid.
On April 30 of this year, Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez told the BBC that the idea that there is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela “was made up by the Pentagon” in order to justify an invasion of the country.
Deputy Carreno: PSUV Forming “Fighting Units” to Support Regime
National Assembly PSUV deputy Pedro Carreño spoke on the Encendidos interview show on the state-owned VTV network this morning, and warned that the PSUV was forming “fighting units to support the government” . Carreño explained that these fighting units would be made up of “revolutionary militicia”, and that they would make up part of the country’s military backbone.
Carreño explained that the fighting units will be made up of the Unidades de Batalla Bolivar-Chavez [Bolivar-Chavez Battle Units] (UBCh), which are a kind of official militia. According to Carreño, there are currently 10,716 UBCh units in Venezuela. He went on to say:
Each UBCh will have the responsibility of recruiting 20 patriots, and each UBCh will be part of a platoon of 4 UBCh, which in turn will form a CLP… in other words, we have 3,680 CLP, and 4 CLP will make up a militia battalion.
For the sake of clarity, here is the structure of the fighting units restated:
- One UBCh is made up of 20 militants.
- One CLP platoon is made up of four UBCh (80 militants).
- One militia battalion is made up of four CLP platoons (320 militants).
If Carreño’s numbers are accurate:
- There are currently a total of 203,520 UBCh militants in Venezuela organized into 10,176 UBCh units.
- There are currently 2,544 CLP platoons.
- There are currently 636 militia battalions.
Carreño also suggested that the PSUV was working to increase the number of militia battalions to 920, which would mean a 294,400-strong fighting force.
Carreño said that the reason for the formation and strengthening of these fighting units is to protect the country against an imminent invasion by the United States. Explaining that Venezuela has suffered more U.S. intervention “than Afghanistan… Syria and Libya”, Carreño said:
If the United States was defeated in Vietnam, they’re going to find 13,682 Vietnams here which are the UBCh in the country, which will stand ready. The United States is not afraid of tanks, missiles, or intercontinental ballistic missiles because those are air force targets. Do you know what they do fear? Fighters.
Governor of Amazonas Banned from Office for 15 Years
Liborio Guarulla, the governor of Amazonas state, has been banned from holding office for 15 years, becoming the latest victim of the regime tactic of administrative bans against popular opposition politicians. The ban would prevent Guarulla from running for office in the next gubernatorial elections, which should have taken place last year but were “postponed” indefinitely with no explanation late last year.
Liborio is an Indigenous person, and has been governor of the state since 2001. He called the ban a sign of “desperation” by the regime.
In early April, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles was also handed a 15 year ban from holding office.
Video Shows Humanity Amidst Despair
A video shared on Twitter earlier today by Jose Carrasquero, a Venezuelan political scientists, captured a moment of humanity amidst the despair caused by the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.
The undated video was recorded by a man who was driving down a road, likely somewhere in Caracas. The man catches a father rummaging through garbage bags alongside a young boy and stops his car. The video and my translation are below:
Driver: Hey buddy–are you looking for food for the kid?
Driver: Come here, buddy. I’m giving you my sandwich, and here are some chocolates for the kid.
Father: Thank you, brother. I hope God rewards your generosity.
Driver: Don’t worry about it. Bye, buddy!
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