Opposition supporters attempted to march to the offices of the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) [Supreme Court] in Caracas today, and were met with the same kind of repression that has prevented them from marching into western Caracas throughout the last month.

During the repression, a 27 year old protester named Miguel Castillo Bracho was hit in the throat by a “projectile” and subsequently died. Bracho was protesting in Las Mercedes, Caracas when he was killed. Another man, Anderson Enrique Dugarte, died in Merida state this afternoon after being shot in the head during a protest in that state on Monday.

The demonstration today developed with the same rhythm as virtually every other opposition demonstration that has taken place in the capital city since early April. Opposition supporters rallied at eight different points of the city starting at around 10:00 AM this morning, and then attempted unsuccessfully to enter western Caracas by marching on the Francisco Fajardo highway.

The name of today’s march was “Nuestro Escudo es la Constitucion” [Our Shield is the Constitution], and it featured a relatively new and emerging protest tactic: shield-bearers.

Shield-bearers have become a common sight at protests, particularly in Caracas, over the last few weeks. Shield-bearers are protesters who carry home-made shields, often made of wood and scrap metal, on which they write anti-regime slogans or paint Venezuelan flags.

The shield-bearers tend to be younger protesters who rush to the front of marches and form shield walls. The shield walls are typically formed by a front rank of kneeling protesters who hold their shield perpendicular to the ground, while a second rank of standing protesters complete the wall.

A large enough shield wall appears to be an effective defensive tactic against tear gas and rubber bullets, which the authorities often fire directly at demonstrators.

Below, a shield wall in action on the Francisco Fajardo highway at approximately 2:00 PM in Caracas. Note that the wall offers protection to protesters throwing rocks and other objects at the authorities:

Below, another shot of shield walls in action today:

In the video below, shield-bearers cover the retreat of protesters on the highway as to National Guard ballenas [high-pressure water cannons] advance:

Shield-bearers organize themselves into small units, some of which appear to be highly organized. In the video below, a shield wall retreats in unison:

The shields also appear to be formidable offensive tools. In the video below, shield-bearers withstand a high-pressure water cannon attack and force the trucks to retreat. Note the paint, both on the trucks and on the floor. Protesters have also taken to throwing paint at National Guard trucks in the hopes of blocking the driver side windshield:

The image below shows a shield wall. The shields have images of the Constitution and anti-Maduro slogans painted on them. Opposite the shield-bearers: the National Guard, also shielded:

A shield unit advancing on the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas at approximately 2:20 PM through the El Rosal neighbourhood. One shield reads “Justice”, and the other “Resistance”:

The video below shows the mass of protesters, protected by shield-bearers, retreating on the highway:

The video below captured some of the commotion on the Francisco Fajardo:

The image below shows protesters on a bridge in Las Mercedes near the Francisco Fajardo highway in clouds of tear gas:

The video below shows National Guard soldiers shooting a protester in the back with a tear gas canister at point blank range. The protester stumbles away and collapses a short distance away. Another protester comes to his aid and begins to drag him. While the tweet identifies the protester as Miguel Castillo, it is not clear at this moment if that is in fact the case:

Protester Killed in Las Mercedes

A 27-year-old man named Miguel Castillo Bracho was killed while protesting in Las Mercedes, Caracas when he was allegedly hit in the throat by some kind of projectile. The projectile was likely a tear gas canister.

The video below allegedly shows Bracho being driven to receive medical care on the back of a motorcycle:

If Bracho was indeed killed by a tear gas canister, he would become the second protester to die from the projectile since the protests began in April. On April 26, a 20 year old named Juan Pablo Pernalete was killed by authorities when he was hit in the chest by a tear gas canister fired at close range.

Bracho becomes the 46th person to die due to the ongoing unrest since April 6.

Colectivo Armado Robs, Represses in La Candelaria

Protesters in the La Candelaria neighbourhood of Caracas lived through tense moments today as a colectivo armado (pro-regime militia) robbed a journalist and then fired their weapons into the air in the early afternoon, sending demonstrators fleeing in panic.

The video below captured the moment that the colectivo (on motorcycles, near the bottom of the screen) opened fire:

The video below shows protesters fleeing in panic as the colectivo opens fire:

The image below shows a colectivo member aiming a firearm, allegedly at demonstrators:

After the attack, National Assembly deputy Gaby Arellano showed spent bullet casings fired by the colectivo:

The image below shows what appears to be a bullet impact on a window. The tweet reads: “Bullet impact on the 19th floor of the Pral. Tower of the Merchant Bank in San Bernardino after colectivos arrived in the area”:

The same colectivo appears to have robbed a driver who was working for a team of journalists covering the day’s protests. The video below captured the scene. Note that the National Bolivarian Police officers on the scene are virtually helpless before the colectivo and do little more than halfheartedly run after the men as they discharge their weapons into the air:

Man Recording: They’re robbing and shooting into the air. The colectivos are robbing our driver. Here is the National Bolivarian Police–they’re not doing anything. The colectivos are robbing our driver, they’re taking his bulletproof vest. Here is the National Bolivarian Police taking the bulletproof vest away from them. They’re shooting, as you can see.

[To the driver] What did they take from you?

Driver: My bag.

Man Recording: The bag! [To the police officer:] The bag! That’s a colectivo, man! That’s a colectivo! The colectivo have just taken our bag. They have weapons and are firing them, as you can see. They keep firing their weapons and the National Bolivarian Police were unable to do anything about it.

I repeat: alleged colectivos firing their weapons, and you can see how the National Bolivarian Police were unable to do anything about it. They robbed our driver from CaraotaDigital.net.

In an unprecedented move, the militia attack was confirmed by the authorities. The chief of the National Bolivarian Police, Brigadier General Carlos Alfredo Perez Ampueda, spoke to reporters in the mid-afternoon to defend the job his officers had done in La Candelaria against the colectivo. Calling the militia members “bums”, a frustrated Ampueda conceded to reporters that the colectivos are better armed than his officers, but that they would “capture them wherever we see them”.

Brigadier General Ampueda’s becomes the highest-ranking regime official to acknowledge the existence of the colectivos armados as violent agents of repression.

NA Deputy: 35 Protesters “Kidnapped” in Carabobo State

National Assembly deputy Juan Miguel Matheus announced today that at least 35 protesters had been “kidnapped” by National Guard soldiers in the El Trigal neighbourhood of Valencia, Carabobo state during protests in the area today.

Carabobo state is currently under a kind of martial law that the regime calls Plan Zamora, an initiative it has allegedly taken in the name of restoring order to the state. Since coming into effect last week, Plan Zamora has processed at least 251 protesters through military tribunals–a move that is wholly illegal–54 of whom have already been sentenced to prison.

Amnesty International issued a press release today on the “growing use” of military tribunals, part of which reads:

The growing use of military tribunals to try civilians demonstrate the absolute determination that Venezuelan authorities have to choke the growing protests and terrorize any individual contemplating the possibility of expressing their opinion.

Venezuelan Consulate in Toronto Advertises Event with Doctored Image of Protesters

Last night, the Venezuelan consulate in Toronto advertised a pro-regime event in the city by using a poorly-doctored image of opposition protesters.

The event, which is being organized by the consulate, released this promotional image last night. Underneath the caption “NO TO TERRORISM”, an image shows a group of heavily-armed opposition protesters:

Close examination of the image reveals that all of the firearms seen in the picture were photoshopped.

The original image was taken by EFE at least one week ago. The original photograph can be seen below, minus the poorly-photoshopped firearms:

News of the fake image made a splash on social media this morning, and was reported on by a couple of local Latin American news outlets.

The Venezuelan consulate later changed the offending image without apology or explanation.

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

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2 thoughts on “05.10.17: Shield-Bearers

  1. Pingback: 05.11.17: Miguel Castillo Bracho | In Venezuela

  2. Pingback: 05.13.17: Onward | In Venezuela

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