TalCual has reported that Richard Peñalver, the so-called Pistolero de Puente Llaguno [The Gunman of Llaguno Bridge], is now asking for asylum in Spain. The website cited a Venezuelan lawyer living in Spain named Jose Antonio Carrejo Araujo, who claims to have seen Peñalver in a Spanish government office in the city of Tenerife on Monday submitting the paperwork for his request.

Peñalver shot himself onto the national spotlight on April 11, 2002, during the events of the coup d’etat attempt against Chavez. That day, thousands of opposition supporters marched through the streets of Caracas on their way to the Miraflores Palace, where Chavez was taking refuge. A large group of protesters was moving north on the Baralt Avenue towards the Miraflores Palace, which is located on the Urdaneta Avenue. Baralt and Urdaneta intersect two blocks west of Miraflores at the Llaguno Bridge, under which Baralt runs.

In the early afternoon hours of April 11, the bridge was occupied by government supporters who were using the position to observe the movement of the opposition crowd on the Baralt Avenue below. As the opposition protesters began to approach the bridge, some of the chavistaopened fire on the crowd.

The dramatic scenes were captured by television cameras from news stations that were covering the unrest. One of the most iconic images from the violence that day are of a man–El Pistolero de Puente Llaguno–emptying a pistol into a crowd of anti-government protesters. The Pistolero was later identified as Richard Peñalver.

The video below shows Peñalver, wearing a white dress shirt and circled in red, shooting at anti-government protesters on Puente Llaguno on April 11, 2002:

Nineteen people were killed and over 100 were injured in the fighting around the Miraflores Palace that day.

Peñalver was arrested and sent to trial over the shooting, but was acquitted after successfully arguing that he was acting in self defense. Peñalver’s determination to fight for the Bolivarian Revolution made him a celebrity as the Chavez and Maduro governments cemented their choke-hold on power, and sometimes appeared in government television programs commemorating the events of April 11.

Rodriguez Torres Charged with Espionage

Ultimas Noticias reported today that former Minister of the Interior and lifelong Chavez alley Miguel Rodriguez Torres has been formally charged with espionage following his dramatic arrest at a Caracas hotel on March 13. The website claims that the charges were laid by a military tribunal on March 14, but were unreported until today.

Torres, who fought alongside Chavez in the 1992 coup d’etat and served as Minister of the Interior under Maduro until 2014, had become critical of the regime in recent years. His personal history and open criticism of the Maduro presidency positioned him as an attractive alternative to dissident chavistas.

Torres was charged with espionage and two other crimes in a tribunal located inside Fuerte Tiuna, a military base in Caracas. According to court documents, the investigation that led to the charges began in May of last year, and stem from Torres’ work in a group called the Movimiento Amplio Desafio de Todos [The Everyone’s Challenge Movement], a political organization that the documents claim “is used to carry out activities against the legitimacy” of the Maduro regime.

Opposition Will Not Recognize May 20 Election Results

The Frente Amplio Venezuela Libre [Free Venezuela Front] (FAVL) announced today that it would not recognize the results of the May 20 presidential election, and suggested that it might attempt to organize a campaign of civil disobedience if the vote takes place.

The announcement came from Victor Marquez, a spokesperson for the organization, who said:

Here in Venezuela, we citizens are going to move towards a campaign of civil disobedience because starting on May 21, if [Maduro] is elected via that vote, he will lose his legitimacy and become a person [who is not legally] the president of Venezuela.

Marquez did not provide any details on what the civil disobedience campaign would look like.

The FAVL is an offshoot of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), the biggest opposition bloc in Venezuela. Whereas the MUD is strictly a political organization made up of opposition parties, the FAVL also includes sectors from civil society.

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

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