colectivo armado attacked the Centro Residencial apartment complex in the La Candelaria neighbourhood of the city last night, breaking windows and firing into buildings in the area. The colectivo was accompanied by official state security forces.

El Nacional reports that the attack began at approximately 11:00 PM last night. Carlos Julio Rojas, a coordinator with the La Candelaria neighbourhood assembly, told the newspaper that the attackers fired their weapons at apartment buildings and attempted to burn a car in the area.

Colectivos armados [literally “armed groups”] are pro-regime militias made up of individuals who act violently towards opposition supporters with impunity. Colectivos have been observed acting in conjunction with uniformed security forces in the past by NGOs with observers on the ground like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The neighbourhood was the site of considerable unrest last night. Earlier in the evening, a National Guard armoured truck was burned on a street in the area:

Another angle of the same scene:

The video below shows what appears to be National Guard soldiers coming under attack from protesters throwing Molotov cocktails as they ride through the neighbourhood:

Guevara: “Great National Strike” Coming

National Assembly deputy Freddy Guevara told reporters today that the time was fast approaching for the opposition to “ratchet up the pressure” against the Maduro regime as anti-government protests enter their 72nd consecutive day.

During a press huddle at the Plaza Brion in the Chacaito neighbourhood of Caracas, Guevara called the anti-regime movement “irreversible”, and that the opposition should look to hold a “great national strike” as a way to increase the pressure on Maduro and the PSUV. Guevara also outlined the next goals of the protest movement, saying:

Resistance must continue until another public institution [turns against the regime], or until the National Bolivarian Armed Forces withdraw their support for the government.

With his comments, Guevara referenced the fact that the Public Ministry–which is headed by attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz–has recently turned against the Maduro regime, in part by publicly criticizing its systematic violation of human rights.

Guevara is the temporary head of the Voluntad Popular (VP) party while its leader Leopoldo Lopez is in prison, and has taking a leading role in organizing the protests that have shaken the country since April 1.

Guevara announced later in the afternoon that opposition supporters would try to reach the headquarters of the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) in Caracas tomorrow via the subway, a tactic meant to circumvent the authorities’ repression every time the gesture has been attempted on surface roads.

Capriles: Constituent Assembly Looking to “Cut Off Heads”

Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles spoke on the upcoming Constituent Assembly, calling it a tool that Maduro hopes to be able to use to “cut off the heads” of his political enemies, namely attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz. Ortega Diaz has made a public break from the regime in recent weeks, criticizing it for its continued human rights abuses and calling on Venezuelans to reject the Constituent Assembly process.

Capriles said:

They’ve already said why they want the Constituent [Assembly]: it’s to cut off heads, to get rid of attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz. I haven’t heard anyone from the government say that the [Assembly] is [to get] food and medicine. It’s only to cut off the head of the attorney general and whoever else does not agree with them.

The representatives for the Constituent Assembly will be elected on July 30, and will then be tasked with writing a new national constitution. Yesterday, PSUV vice president Diosado Cabello said that the assembly would begin its work within three days of the July election.

Critics argue that the by giving the regime the ability to write a new constitution, Maduro and the PSUV will use the opportunity to cement dictatorial rule in Venezuela.

Peruvian President Calls for Release of Political Prisoners, Regional “Arbitration”

El Pais published an interview today with Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in which the head of state briefly expressed his views on a possible way forward for the Venezuelan crisis.

According to Kuczynski, the most formidable roadblock for a meaningful dialogue in the country is the fact that the Maduro regime holds political prisoners, among them leading opposition figures like Voluntad Popular‘s Leopoldo Lopez. Kuczynski called the matter of political prisoners “the fundamental” issue at the heart of the conflict between the two sides, and opined that “there is no possibility for dialogue” without first securing the release of all those who have been arrested for speaking out against the Maduro regime.

Kuczynski also suggested that upon the release of all political prisoners, a group of regional mediators could work towards facilitating “a transition” in Venezuela. Kuczynski said:

If [the political prisoners were to be released], which is a really high priority, I think that we could then have three countries that are friends of democracy name some mediators and three countries from the other side could also name some people. Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Colombia or Brazil. And then they could do something like a mediation. Three on one side and three on the other. They would have to be highly prestigious individuals who would be willing to sit down for months or weeks to try to find some understanding and a transition. Obviously, they wouldn’t meet in Venezuela. They could meet in Curacao.

Kuczynski also criticized UNASUR for “leaning too much to one side”, referencing the regional bloc’s tendency to side with the Maduro regime.

On the importance of helping Venezuelans overcome the crisis, Kuczynski said:

I think that we have to do something because the neighbourhood can’t have an important country sinking dangerously, and that is the country with the largest oil reserves in the world.

El Universal reports that the unrest in the area forced the closure of two subway stations starting at 7:00 PM, and that by midnight the skirmishes had died down.

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

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