Many of the country’s streets remained empty today, the second day of a 48-hour general strike that began yesterday at 6:00 AM. The strike, which was organized by the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) opposition bloc, is in rejection of the upcoming July 30 Constituent Assembly election, which regime critics claim with give Maduro unlimited dictatorial powers.
Below, a video showing the streets of Maracaibo, Zulia state–the second largest city in the country–devoid of human life this morning at about 9:30 AM:
The video below, recorded in the normally packed Sabana Grande avenue of Caracas, shows mostly closed businesses this morning:
Second Day of General Strike Marked by Violent Clashes
There were violent clashes between protesters and security forces around the country today, leaving at least two people dead and an unknown number of injured.
The video below shows protesters and security forces fighting in the Bello Monte neighbourhood of Caracas this afternoon:
The 13-minute stream below from the Terrazas del Avila neighbourhood of the capital shows National Guard soldiers clashing with protesters at a residential complex in the area:
In Naguanagua, Carabobo state, Carabobo State Police officers fired tear gas at protesters. The image below shows a protest barricade made by removing sewer grates from the ground, and tear gas clouds lingering in the air:
In the image below, three protesters mill around a tear gas canister in La Candelaria, Caracas:
The image below shows the burned shell of a National Guard armoured truck that was intercepted by protesters on its way to Chachopo, a town in Merida state:
The video below shows National Guard soldiers arresting a journalist named Luis Olavarrieta in the Montalban area of Caracas. Olavarrieta was subsequently released:
Regime Militias Attack Protesters in San Cristobal
Armed regime militias known locally as colectivos armados (“armed groups”) attacked protesters in San Cristobal, Tachira state this afternoon, spreading panic through the city.
The colectivo appeared to be made up of at least half a dozen men who opened fire on protesters. The video below shows the colectivo in action:
In the image on the left below, three of the colectivo members–faces covered and armed–are clearly visible. In the image on the right, a colectivo member carrying what appears to be an M16 assault rifle rides on the back of a National Guard motorcycle driven by a soldier:
Protest Violence Claims Five Lives in 24 Hours
Protest-related unrest has claimed the lives of five Venezuelans over the past 25 hours.
Yesterday, three people were killed while taking part in anti-government protests. They were:
- Rafael Antonio Vergara (30): Killed, allegedly by National Guard soldiers, while protesting in Ejido, Merida state.
- Enderson Caldera (23): Killed while protesting by National Guard soldiers in Timotes, Merida state.
- Jean Carlos Aponte (16): Killed, allegedly by National Guard soldiers, while walking near a protest in Petare, Caracas.
As of the writing of this update (4:45 PM EST time) there have been two fatalities during protests today:
- Leonardo Gonzalez Barreto (49): Killed in the El Guayabal neighbourhood of Naguanagua, Carabobo state. The Public Ministry claims that Gonzalez was riding on a bus that came under fire from unknown assailants while it drove through a protest zone.
- Anthony Alejandro Castillo (30): Died in hospital today after being brutally beaten by National Guard soldiers during a protest in Barquisimeto, Lara state on July 20.
Regime: Protests Banned from Friday to Tuesday
Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace Nestor Reverol announced this afternoon that all protests were banned in the country starting tomorrow and ending on Tuesday. The measure is allegedly being taken in order to guarantee the uneventful unfolding of Sunday’s Constituent Assembly vote.
Reverol–who was slapped with financial and travel sanctions by the United States yesterday over his role in human rights violations in the country–also provided a few details regarding the regime’s security operations plan for the weekend. Reverol revealed that the country had been divided into “peace quadrants”, and that the state’s security forces had been tasked with ensuring order in each one of them.
We’ve designed a patrol plan in order to respond to events during the electoral process in each state. Each peace quadrant will have as its responsibility between eight and nine voting centres.
The right to protest is enshrined in Article 68 of the constitution.
Opposition Reacts to Protest Ban by Calling for Nationwide Protests
The MUD reacted to Reverol’s protest ban with defiance, calling on all Venezuelans to participate in protests in their towns and cities tomorrow despite the regime’s ban on the act.
Originally, the opposition had scheduled a massive rally in Caracas for tomorrow. When news of the ban came out, however, the opposition decided to convene protests all around the country, not just the capital.
The call came via National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara, who tweeted out the following message:
The dictatorship says that we cannot protest starting tomorrow. So, instead of protesting in Caracas tomorrow we will protest THROUGHOUT Venezuela! Details at 6 PM.
Maduro Calls for Dialogue, Calls Guevara “Hitler’s Lapdog”
During a televised speech today, Maduro congratulated his supporters for a successful campaign leading to Sunday’s Constituent Assembly vote, and said that Venezuelans would vote on that day to decide to make Venezuela either “a free homeland or a colony of the empire [the US]”.
Claiming that the general strike convened by the opposition had been “defeated”, Maduro called Freddy Guevara “Hitler’s lapdog” and threatened him with prison. Maduro said:
The people and the working class have defeated the calls [for a general strike] from Hitler’s lapdog [Guevara]. There is a jail cell ready for Hitler’s lapdog.
At the same time, Maduro called on the opposition to sit down and engage in a formal dialogue with the government, saying that he “would be happy” dialogue could start before the Constituent Assembly begins to meet next week to re-write the national constitution.
Maduro also repeated a threat that he has made at least twice in the past before, saying that he would check voter rolls to see “who voted and did their part for the fatherland” on Sunday.
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