Protest violence claimed the lives of two more Venezuelans today, both in Tachira state.
A fifteen year old boy named Jose Francisco Guerrero died today after being shot last night, allegedly by either National Guard soldiers or pro-regime militias, in the Sabaneta sector of Tachira state. Guerrero was hospitalized last night with a gunshot injury to the abdomen.
Guerrero’s sister recorded a video shortly after her brother died earlier today, which I have translated below:
Maria: I am Maria Elizabeth Contreras Zambrano, the sister of Jose Francisco Guerrero, who was 15 years old. Yesterday, he became another victim of the National Guard and the colectivos [pro-regime militias].
My mom sent him out to a corner store to buy corn flour for dinner and he never came back. When they called us from here [the hospital] he was already undergoing an operation from a gunshot wound. When he came in here he said that the National Guard had done it.
Damn you, soldiers! They’re always killing people. They have no heart. Damn you, Maduro, [unintelligible] people in all of Venezuela. They never get tired of killing! Don’t they have children? Don’t they have families? Don’t they have hearts? Damn you, you sons of bitches! I hate you with all of my soul.
They took him from us. He was a kid. He was 15. He was just starting to live his life
While the details of Guerrero’s death are not clear, it would appear from his sister’s testimony that Guerrero came across a skirmish between protesters and National Guard soldiers while on his way to the store.
Later in the day, a 30 year old man named Manuel Castellanos was shot by soldiers during a protest in Tucape, the Cardenas municipality of Tachira state. El Nacional reports that Castellanos was killed by an FN FAL, which suggests that he was killed by a member of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces. If true, this would be the first death attributed to the Venezuelan army (not the National Guard).
El Nacional also reports that Castellanos was not participating in a protest himself. Rather, he was walking home after having bought diapers for his son when he came across a skirmish between protesters and soldiers. When the soldiers opened fire on the protesters, Castellanos was caught in the middle.
Regime Sends 2,600 Soldiers to Tachira to Quell Unrest
Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez announced today that 2,600 soldiers would be deployed to Tachira state effective immediately to crush the protests that have been taking place in the state, as in elsewhere in the country, since April 1. The troop deployment includes 2,000 National Guard soldiers and 600 National Bolivarian Armed Forces soldiers.
Padrino Lopez had a message to protests when he made the announcement:
Remember, those of you who act violently, that you’re not playing alone. You’re up against a government that is searching for peace. We, the Bolivarian government, will not allow the Venezuelan fatherland to fall into chaos.
Heavy Fighting Continues in San Antonio de los Altos
The fighting that claimed the life of Diego Arellano in San Antonio de los Altos, Miranda state continued into today, shutting the city down as a main highway that connects the southern part of Miranda state to Caracas became the scene of confrontations between demonstrators and security forces.
Below, a video of the fighting on the highway recorded at approximately 4:00 PM this afternoon:
The short clip below shows the moment that a tear gas canister was fired into an apartment, also in San Antonio:
National Bolivarian Police Officers Stop Doctor’s March
A doctor’s march that had hoped to reach the Ministry of Health offices in Caracas to call attention to the ongoing collapse of the healthcare system was prevented from doing so by the National Bolviarian Police. The police allegedly told the doctors that their march could not take place because there was a pro-regime rally happening along their route, at the Plaza Morelos.
The group of doctors, several hundred strong, congregated outside of the JM de los Rios hospital early in the morning before commencing the march.
Below, some images from the march.
The pictures below show the march as it began outside of the JM de los Rios hospital in the San Bernardino neighbourhood of the city:
The images below show police on the scene:
MUD to hold Candlelight Vigil Tonight in Caracas, Elsewhere
The opposition will hold candlelight vigils tonight in cities across the country as it continues to show an appetite for experimenting with protest events. Tonight’s demonstrations will be the first official anti-regime events to take place at night.
In Caracas, the vigils will take place at three different points of the city starting at 5:00 PM. The event is scheduled to end by 7:00 PM.
Speaking on the significance of the vigil, National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara said:
We must be the light that illuminates Venezuela.
Guevara spoke both on the novelty of a night protest as well as the fears that Venezuelans–who typically avoid spending time outdoors at night due to high incidences of violent crime–said:
We have to build up our strength and confidence. That’s why this first national night protest will take place in traditional opposition protest sites, where we have more control and safety.
As of the publishing of this update (6:30 PM EST), the event was unfolding as scheduled and appears to have been well-attended. Below, images from the event in Parque Cristal, Caracas:
And another, from the Montalban neighbourhood:
Images Show Armed Militias Inside PSUV Headquarters in Tachira State
National Assembly deputy Juan Requesens shared four images through his Twitter account today that show at least half a dozen armed men meeting inside the PSUV headquarters in the Barrio Obrero area of Tachira.
Below, the images:
Pro-regime militias known locally as colectivos armados (“armed groups”) have killed at least seven protesters since April 7. Colectivos have long been known to collaborate with official state authorities in protest-repression activities.
National Assembly Creates Regime Transition Commission
The National Assembly voted today to create a special commission to oversee an eventual political transition away from the Maduro regime to a democratic government. National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara spoke on the importance of the commission, saying:
To think that pressure is the only thing that will lead to the reconstruction would be to forget that our mission and mandate is not only to leave this dictatorship, but also to guarantee political stability so that we may rebuild our country.
Guevara said that the work of the commission would help to avoid a post-regime “period of revenge and persecution” that would split the country further apart.
During the same session, deputy Carlos Valero said that protests that have been taking place throughout the country since April are nothing less than a “civil rebellion” against the Maduro regime, and that he hoped that civil war could be averted.
Valero also outlined his hopes for the transition commission, saying:
[The work of the commission] does not nor will it involve revenge or impunity. It must be framed by justice and the Constitution.
Brazil Prepares for Possible Venezuelan Migrant Crisis
Brazilian Minister of Defense Raul Jungmann announced today that his office is drawing up “contingency plans” in the event of a Venezuelan migrant crisis precipitated by the country’s complete collapse. Jungmann said that the Brazilian government is primarily concerned with the Venezuelan crisis and the likelihood that it could cause massive migration into Brazil mostly on a humanitarian level, but also “from the point of view of [national] defense”.
Jungmann also said:
We don’t want things to get worse, [but] we have a duty to defend our border [and] make preparations for a worsening crisis that would mean preparing to deal with a larger migrant pressure.
Jungmann said that approximately 6,000-8,000 Venezuelans cross into Brazil each day through the Roraima and Amazonas regions in search for food and medicine to take back to their homes in Venezuela.
UN Security Council Discusses Venezuelan Crisis
The United Nations Security Council discussed the ongoing crisis in Venezuela for the first time today during an informal meeting of the permanent council. The United States suggested to the council that the meeting, which had already been scheduled to cover other topics, also include a discussion on Venezuela.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley posted the following message on her Twitter account shortly before the meeting took place:
It is not known what the result, if any, of the meeting was.
Maduro: “We Are the New Jews”
Maduro held a cabinet meeting yesterday in which he addressed the protests against his regime, now into their 47th day. Maduro said that National Assembly President Julio Borges and the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) opposition bloc were fully responsible for the “armed insurgency and fascist hatred” that he claimed are spreading throughout the country.
Speaking on a recent spat of anti-regime protests aimed at Venezuelan consulates, embassies and even officials’ family members, Maduro said that members of the ruling PSUV party had become “the new Jews” through the persecution. Maduro said:
We are the new Jews of the world (…) only for the crime of being chavista.
Aside from overseeing what is likely to go down in history as the most catastrophic collapse of a nation state since the end of the Second World War, Maduro has been personally implicated in a number of crimes. Last week, Maduro was accused of having received $11 million in dirty money via a Brazilian construction giant mired in a corruption scandal.
Maduro has arguably also committed crimes against humanity, including ordering the mass deportation of thousands of Colombian citizens who lived in Venezuela’s border states in August of 2015.
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