The streets of Caracas and other major cities across the country awoke this morning pockmarked with impromptu barricades as protesters launched an unannounced trancazo [roughly, “lock-down”]. The trancazo, which was particularly pronounced in Caracas, paralyzed sections of the city for most of the day as authorities and protesters clashed on major roads around the capital.
In Caracas, protesters blocked the Francisco Fajardo highway–a vital artery that runs through the centre of the city–in Chacaito, while others erected barricades on the Francisco de Miranda avenue nearby.
The Francisco de Miranda avenue began to be barricaded at around 7:30 AM Caracas time. The video below shows a dump truck emptying soil onto the avenue. Note that the road is devoid of traffic:
Below, the dump truck’s objective achieved:
The early-morning barricades on the avenue appear to have had a relatively significant impact, given that by 9:30 AM the avenue was still empty of traffic:
The Francisco Fajardo’s Santa Fe interchange, located east of Chacao, was also blocked. The barricades in the area caused gridlock in the early morning:
The Prados del Este highway was also blocked. In the image below, protesters mill around a barricade made of tree branches and garbage:
Starting at around noon, a large group of students blocked a stretch of the Petare-Guarenas highway, which runs across the northeastern part of the city. The authorities responded to the scene in force, and clashes ensued:
Another group of demonstrators blocked the La Trinidad tunnel:
As night fell, parts of the city descended into an all-too-familiar chaos. In the video below, residents of the Ruiz Pineda neighbourhood of Caracas clash with security forces:
Protesters and Authorities Clash in Naguanagua
Today’s protests were not limited to Caracas. In Naguanagua, Carabobo state, demonstrators and authorities faced off throughout most of the day, with the heaviest clashes beginning shortly after 2:00 PM.
The first barricades came up early in the morning, with the one below being in place before 7:30 AM:
In the Las Quintas sector of the city, protesters blocked a road with tree branches:
Below, a small band of demonstrators blocks a road near the Free Market mall:
Starting in the early afternoon, Carabobo State Police attempting to clear barricades began to clash with the protesters who were guarding them. The image below shows protesters facing off against security forces, who are gathered in the distance:
Regional National Guard Commander: “Let’s Hit The Rats Hard” On July 20
Yesterday, the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) announced a national work-stoppage lasting 24 hours for this coming Thursday, July 20. The strike action is part of what the opposition has called “Zero Hour”, which appears at the moment to be a campaign of increased pressure on the Maduro regime.
El Nacional published an article today in which it claims to have been made aware of a message sent by a regional National Guard commander to the troops under his command foreshadowing the confrontations between protesters and authorities that are likely to take place during Thursday’s strike.
In the message, the unnamed commander calls on his subordinates to “put out the little fires wherever they pop up”, in reference to pockets of demonstrators that are likely to congregate on important roads on Thursday. The commander also calls opposition protesters “rats” and “traitors”.
Below, the National Guard commander’s message as reported by El Nacional (Note: I’ve edited the grammar of the message in order to facilitate reading):
To the commanders of tactical units, this is a clear, simple and easy-to-obey order: on Thursday, any little fire that pops up has to be put out. We will be victorious. Prepare your [soldiers], organize your units and let us prepare to respond in overwhelming fashion on Thursday. Let us trust the fact that we awoke today in high spirits against the frustration and the lies from the escualidos [a derogatory term for “opposition supporter”] ]who are] traitors against the fatherland. They only moved 1,500,000 people [for the plebiscite vote], and that is being generous [Note: 7.5 million people voted in Sunday’s plebiscite]. Our people answered the call for the [Constituent Assembly] practice vote and they trust us. All we have to do is tune our sights and hit those escualida rats hard on Thursday. As your commander, I trust that we will all do our duty. Revolutionary Venezuela will go on forever…
Chilean, Colombian Senators Take Maduro to The Hague
A group of legislators from Chile and Colombia have formally filed a case against Maduro at the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleging that the Venezuela leader has “committed serious violations against international law” since 2008. With the filing, the legislators hope that the ICC will begin the process of investigating Maduro’s conduct over the past nine years, first while he was Minister of Foreign Affairs and now as President.
In the filing, the legislators argue that Maduro has committed either crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Those crimes are:
- Murder, direct or indirect, in relation to the deaths that have occurred during anti-government protests.
- Intentional deprivation of the necessities of life, in relation to the food and medicine shortages that have been chronic in Venezuela since Maduro became president.
- Mass deportation/forcible removal of populations, in relation to the mass deportation of 1,100+ Colombian citizens from Venezuela in 2015.
- Arbitrary incarceration of regime critics.
- Persecution of an identifiable group (opposition supporters).
- Forced disappearances of regime critics
- The crime of apartheid.
The legislators who filed the paperwork are led by Colombian senator Ivan Duque, who outlined his hopes for the case at the ICC:
I hope that with everything that is happening in Venezuela, [the ICC} will first say that it will place Venezuela under observation, which would in itself be a very important signal to say that what is happening is very serious. The second objective is that the [ICC] open a formal investigation against Nicolas Maduro.
Duque’s Chilean counterpart, Felipe Kast, referenced Chile’s authoritarian past and the importance of international pressure, saying:
When democracy was violated in Chile, [we] received international support.
As a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statue, Venezuela is under has placed itself under the jurisdiction of the ICC.
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