Venezuelans participated today in a paro civico nacional [roughly, “national civil strike”] by staying home from school and work, leaving the streets of the country’s cities and towns deserted throughout the day. The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) announced the strike on Monday as part of the “Zero Hour” protest campaign.
The strike, which was accompanied by clashes between security forces and protesters around the country, left at least two dead and an unknown number of others injured. At least 82 people were arrested during today’s protests, with the majority of the detentions (51) happening in Zulia state.
In Caracas, streets that are normally gridlocked with rush hour traffic were devoid of life starting in the early morning as many businesses remained closed for the day. Essential businesses like banks, pharmacies and supermarkets opened for the most part.
The Francisco de Miranda avenue, a major transit artery that runs through the busy Chacao neighbourhood, was virtually empty this morning:
A small band of protesters mill in front of closed businesses on the same road:
The caption on the tweet below appears to cite protesters who were building a barricade as saying, “We’re letting pedestrians and motorcycles through for now, but we don’t know about later”:
In the video below, National Guard soldiers take a journalist named Hector Caldera away under arrest:
In the video below, a group of protesters at a barricade are watched by a National Guard phalanx in the Terrazas de Avila neighbourhood of Caracas:
The video below shows protesters on the receiving end of tear gas in El Paraiso, Caracas:
The two videos below show National Guard soldiers destroying what appear to be tents belonging to street vendors. In the first video, a National Guard truck drives directly into the tents, while in the second a ballena [a high-pressure water canon truck] backs up and drives away after destroying the tents
La Patilla has more pictures of empty streets across Venezuela here.
Two Killed In Today’s Protests
National Assembly deputy Delsa Solorzano reported in the mid-afternoon that one person had been killed and three others had been injured in the Santa Eulalia neighbourhood of Los Teques. The name of the deceased was Ronney Tejera, and he was 24 years old.
Solorzano reported that “armed subjects dressed in black, presumably [official] authorities” arrived in the neighbourhood and opened fire on protesters in the area.
The image below shows a bullet recovered from the scene of the shooting:
Later in the afternoon, news broke that a protester named Andres Uzcategui was shot and killed by National Guard soldiers in La Isabelica, Carabobo state. Three other people were also injured in the same shooting. Uzcategui was known to friends as “Sweet Bread”.
Tejera and Uzcategui become the 95th and 96th persons to be killed during the anti-government protests that have been taking place in the country since April 1.
State-Owned VTV HQ Site of Clashes
In Caracas, the area around the headquarters of the state-owned VTV network was the site of clashes between security forces and protesters for a large portion of the day. Security forces used the building’s roof as a fighting position to launch tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators nearby, and to stage attacks on protesters in the Los Ruices neighbourhood.
The video below captured the two side’s positions for most of the day. Security forces held the roof of the VTV building, while protesters guarded a barricade just around the corner:
The short clip below shows a street full of protesters facing security forces in the distance:
Protesters on an otherwise empty street in Los Ruices:
A small police outpost located beside the VTV building was burned:
In the video below, protesters sing the national anthem while the police outpost burns:
A closer look at the National Guard soldiers on the building:
Decision to Participate in Strike A Difficult One
El Universal published an article today in which it addresses the difficult decision business owners faced for today: to close or not to close.
The article cites Felix Azuaje, a man in charge of a butcher shop on the northern tip of the Fuerzas Armadas avenue in Caracas. Azuaje told the newspaper that his business remained closed today after a group of local businesses all voted to participate in today’s strike.
Maryori Guzman, who owns a supermarket in Santa Rosalia, told the newspaper that she has been participating in the strike, in a way, for the past three months, since the establishment has been closed since April due to a total lack of inventory. Guzman told the newspaper:
I haven’t been able to replenish merchandise in the last three months, and we’re evaluating the possibility of selling or changing businesses. We’ve been on strike for a while.
Guevara: Let Ambulances and Journalists Through
The tactic of barricading roads as a form of protest is known as guarimba in Venezuela. It is a divisive form of protest because it is carried out with the intent to inconvenience others by preventing traffic from flowing freely. While the tactic was widespread in the early part of the 2014 protests, it fell out of favour as the primary form of anti-government demonstration due to its obnoxious nature.
During a press conference earlier today, National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara went on record to say that anyone mounting a guarimba during today’s national strike should exercise reason and let emergency vehicles and journalists through their barricade.
It is important to let ambulances, medics, emergency [vehicles] and journalists [through barricades].
Maduro Calls Guevara “Stupid Kid”, “Imbecilic Terrorist”
Speaking during a televised address today, Maduro turned his ire towards National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara, unleashing a series of insults at the young opposition leader.
Amidst the insults, Maduro also said that he would place Guevara in jail once the Constituent Assembly took place. The assembly, the vote for which takes place on July 30, would give Maduro the power to write a new national constitution. Critics fear that Maduro might use the opportunity to do away with parliamentary immunity, or to simply ban political opposition in Venezuela.
On Guevara, Maduro said:
When this stupid kid–he’s stupid, and I don’t say his name because it’s bad luck–he’s a stupid kid. His jail cell is ready. I’m only waiting for the Constituent [Assembly]. There’s a cell with his name on it, and that’s where that terrorist is going to go.
Maduro continued by saying:
When this idiot came out and called for the national strike, I said, “Con que culo se sienta la cucaracha“? [Note: This is an expression that literally means, “With what ass does the cockroach sit?” It’s used to describe when a person calls for a particular action but lacks the ability or resources to carry it out]. Forgive the expression. I’m asking for your forgiveness. With what butt does the cockroach sit, you stupid kid? Imbecilic terrorist. They don’t even like him in his own home.
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