Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez spoke out today against the abuses that the National Guard has been committing against ordinary citizens while supposedly engaging in protest policing activities. During an official televised event, Padrino Lopez warned that National Guard soldiers who did not behave professionally and respect the human rights of Venezuelans would be held responsible for their actions.

Padrino Lopez said:

[I never again] want to see [a National Guard soldier] committing an atrocity on the street (…) whoever steps away from the model set by the state, from the utmost respect for human rights and behaves unprofessional will have to take responsibility for their actions.

National Guard soldiers have been accused of committing human rights violations since well before the current wave of protests started on April 1 of this year. Given the daily occurrence of anti-regime protests, state authorities are in constant contact with demonstrators, a fact that has created more opportunities for soldiers to victimize citizens.

Just yesterday, National Guard soldiers were observed robbing people and destroying property in Caracas.

La Patilla points out that Padrino Lopez’s comments were not included in the official press coverage of the event by the state-owned VTV network.

Detained Woman Alleges Sexual Assault by Police Officers

A young woman has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by police officers while she was held in detention at the Palace of Justice in Caracas on Monday during the overnight hours. Elenis Rodriguez, a human rights lawyer with knowledge of the case, broke the news.

According to Rodriguez, the woman was riding a Chacao municipality bus when the vehicle was stopped and the occupants arrested. In total, approximately 50 bus riders were arrested for allegedly “looking to generate violence”.

El Nacional reports that the assault happened while the woman was taking a shower in the building’s washroom facilities. At that moment, a National Bolivarian Police officer approached her, made comments of a sexual nature to her, and offered her money for sex.

Rodriguez also said that a woman–presumably a different one–attempted to throw herself out of a window at the Palace of Justice after a judge at the site ordered her to be sent to prison pending her trial.

14 Soldiers Arrested for Allegedly Conspiring Against Regime in April

Reuters reports that 14 National Bolivarian Armed Forces soldiers were arrested in the first week of April for allegedly conspiring against the Maduro regime. The group of soldiers, which includes colonels and captains, are being held in the Ramo Verde military prison just south of Caracas.

The timing of the arrests is significant because anti-regime protests, which have likely become the most massive and sustained anti-government protests in Venezuelan history, began on April 1.

While this particular set of arrests had not previously been made public, it is not the first story to break of possible unrest within the armed forces. Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles revealed in early May that as many as 85 soldiers had been arrested for speaking out against the regime.

National Assembly Votes to Declare Constituent Assembly Elections Illegal

The National Assembly voted on a motion today to declare the upcoming July 30 elections for Maduro’s Constituent Assembly illegal, since their configuration does not exist anywhere in Venezuelan law.

Legislators singled out the fact that some of the 540 individuals who will make up the assembly will be elected by “sectors”, which includes students, pensioners, fishermen, and farmers, among others. Each sector will have a set number of representatives present at the assembly. This electoral mechanism does not exist in the Constitution.

Speaking on the unprecedented amount of power that the Constituent Assembly will wield, deputy Barbosa said:

The trick underneath it all is that if they succeed in setting up the [Constituent Assembly], then every state institution will be controlled by the government.

The Constituent Assembly will be tasked with drafting a new constitution, which will allow its representatives to demolish and then re-build the Venezuelan state to their liking. Regime critics argue that with the move, Maduro is seeking to cement his dictatorial powers.

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