Students at the Universidad de Carabobo (UC) came under attack today from regime forces as they attempted to elect their new student council. Because university campuses have historically been raising grounds for opposition politicians, the Maduro regime is interested in stifling their democratic development in order to stun the growth of the next generation of political leaders in Venezuela.
Signs that the state government–which is run by PSUV governor Rafael Lacava–would not allow the students to hold the election unmolested appeared last night, as Lacava’s office appointed an electoral commission to oversee today’s vote. Student groups viewed the move as “a kind of ‘coup d’etat'”, since the results of the vote would have to be cleared by the PSUV-appointed body for them to be official.
However, the universit’s secretary, Pablo Aure said that the students would not yield to Lacava’s attempt to strip them of their power to oversee their own election. Aure said:
… we have to make clear that the only student electoral commission that exists is the one that is presided over by bachiller Eduardo Leon [“bachiller” means “high school graduate”, an honorific title that defines Leon as someone who has yet to complete his undergraduate degree], and the electoral commission presided over by professor Jose Manuel Ortega. They’re doing their jobs. Those on the side of the governor [Lacava] named a body that is irrelevant. We do not recognize it.
Gabriel Cabrera, another student leader, to El Nacional that the government attempted to install its own electoral commission in the overnight hours to avoid detection and to minimize the likelihood of an organized student response.
Regime Forces Attack UC Campus as Students Vote
As students took to the voting urns to cast their ballots, regime forces attacked the campus starting at approximately 10:00 AM local time. The attack was apparently carried out by uniformed state security forces, as well as by “armed civilians” who fired their weapons during the attack, but injured no one.
The attack appears to have been aimed at disrupting the election in order to help the PSUV-aligned candidate win.
While the identity and origin of the armed civilians is unknown, the phenomenon is relatively common in Venezuela. Armed civilian groups that act on behalf of regime interests are known in Venezuela as “colectivos armados” [literally, “armed collectives” or “armed groups”].
Pablo Aure published what appears to be the start of the state’s attack against the campus. Below, the video along with my translation:
Pabloe Aure: Calm down. Calm down. Calm down. Calm down. This is [PSUV governor] Rafael Lacava sabotaging [the election]. We’re blaming him for this. We’ve been saying [he was going to do this] for a long time. I’m Pablo Aure, secretary of the University of Carabobo.
Woman: Calm down. We can’t get asphyxiated because we’re up here.
Pablo Aure: Get down [repeated]. Get down, please [repeated]. On the ground [repeated].
The attack resulted in a halt to the election, which was declared by the UC administration via Twitter at 11:23 AM local time:
#Now [The] Electoral Commission have suspended the vote in the [student union election] until further notice in order to safeguard the lives of those present, given the acts of violence carried out against students and election staff.
National Guard soldiers fired tear gas at students who were waiting to vote in the student election, as seen in the video below:
Shortly after the noon hour, the university’s Twitter account sent a message indicating that students had seen encapuchados [literally, “hooded people”] carrying voting boxes away from the campus:
#Now Students complain that during the attack, hooded people are carrying voting boxes away throughout the [university]
Earlier in the day, Eduardo Leon, who heads the student electoral commission, issued a video statement in which he accused Carabobo governor Rafael Lacava of threatening to kill him or send him to prison for carrying out his duties. In the video, Leon is joined by two other students, all of whom are holding what appear to be electoral paperwork.
Below, the video along with my translation:
Eduaro Leon: … against the governor of Carabobo state [Rafael Lacava], who is threatening to kill me and to send me to prison. My only crime is being the president of the university electoral commission at a century-old university that is demonstrating its democratic spirit today at the voting booth.
He [Lacava] wanted to boycott this electoral process by setting up parallel voting booths, and the students, professors, workers, and administrative staff told him “no!”. This is the University of Carabobo, where there are multiple colours and we all support democracy in peace, true democracy where we all respect the character–look, we are going to respect as we’ve always respected the democratic will of all of those who participate in this electoral process, and we do not trick [people].
As we’ve said, we open our voting boxes before 35 electoral staff, and they firm our paperwork and we count our votes in public. We cannot lie to the citizens of Carabobo, to Venezuelans. This is a fully transparent and democratic process.
The video below shows panicked students and university staff fleeing a cloud of tear gas:
Armed Civilians Storm Campus, Attack Students
National Assembly deputy Adriana Pichardo shared an image on her Twitter account which allegedly shows a group of civilians arriving on campus on the back of a pick up truck. Pichardo claims that the men were armed, and that they attacked the campus. She also claims that someone–likely representatives from the state government–set up “parallel voting centres” on campus, possibly in an attempt to trick students into throwing away their votes.
Below, Pichardo’s tweet:
#Attention: Strange developments in the elections at the University of Carabobo two trucks have entered the Faculty of Sciences and Health carrying armed men and they are shooting also there are strange developments at the Faculty of Engineering where parallel [voting centres] have been installed
Despite Attack, Voting Resumes
After the university determined that it was safe to do so, voting resumed on campus.
By approximately 6:00 PM local time, university electoral authorities had begun counting the votes. Pablo Aure said that, based on early numbers, a student leader by the name of Marlon Diaz appeared to be heading towards victory.
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