The Constituent Assembly approved a motion today stripping National Assembly president Juan Guaido of his diplomatic immunity, following a request yesterday from the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) that it do just that.

After the motion was approved, PSUV vice president and Constituent Assembly president Diosdado Cabello said that the next step should be for the Venezuelan justice system to apply “the different penal codes [sic]” to Guaido.

The move from the Constituent Assembly is largely symbolic, since it is unclear whether it even has the power to strip National Assembly deputies of their immunity. Moreover, Guaido was arrested briefly earlier this year despite enjoying parliamentary immunity.

At one point during today’s proceedings, Constituent Assembly member Maria Leon went up to the podium to speak. She asked rhetorically what the penalty should be for people who commit treason, as she argued Guaido had done. In answer, some of the other members of the assembly began to shout “Paredon! Paredon!”. The word “paredon” means “wall”, as in, the wall against which one condemned to death is placed in front of a firing squad.

Below, a clip of that moment as it was caught on tape:

Based on the context of Leon’s words, it is likely that she did not mean to suggest that Guaido should be executed, but rather that he should have his Venezuelan citizenship stripped from him.

Venezuela was the first still-existing country to ban capital punishment, in 1863.

Guaido Reiterates Call for Protest on Saturday

In a speech shortly after news of the Constituent Assembly’s decision broke, Guaido said that the move was yet more evidence that the Maduro regime is “afraid” of the popular movement that he leads.

Guaido said that the regime was mistaken thinking that by attacking those around him it could “stop the hope for change in Venezuela”,

Guaido also told supporters that in the event that the regime were to “kidnap” him, there is a plan in place. He said:

In the event that they kidnap me, the route, the instructions, and the timeline for the struggle have been set.

Crowds Rush Border at Simon Bolivar Bridge

Earlier this afternoon, large crowds swarmed the Simon Bolivar international bridge connecting Venezuela and Colombia and attempted to cross it.

The bridge has been closed since February 22, when Maduro ordered the measure in anticipation of the opposition-led attempt to deliver humanitarian aid into the country the following day. However, because the border between Colombia and Venezuela in that area is marked by a small river, people have been crossing into and out of Venezuela across footpaths on either side of the Simon Bolivar bridge.

A recent rise in the water level of the river has made crossings treacherous or impossible, resulting in today’s event on the Simon Bolivar bridge.

The video below shows people jumping over barricades on the Colombian side of the bridge, and rushing across it into Venezuela:

A group of people climbed one of the shipping containers that were placed on the bridge by the Venezuelan government after February 23 to block traffic:

A woman fainted during the commotion. In the video below, she is being carried back into Colombia:

A child also fainted:

It is not clear if anyone made it across the bridge into Venezuela, or what the Venezuelan authorities’ reaction was to the crowd.

National Assembly Calls Colectivo Activities “State Terrorism”

The National Assembly approved a motion today to consider the acts this past Sunday of pro-government militias known in Venezuela as colectivos armados a form of “state terrorism”.

On Sunday, as protests over continued disruption to water and electrical service spread throughout Caracas, a colectivo opened fire on anti-government demonstrators on the Fuerzas Armadas avenue, injuring two protesters.

News from the National Assembly came via a journalist named Gabriela Gonzalez, who also reported that the legislature had asked for information regarding Sunday’s event to be forwarded to the International Criminal Court.

Colectivos armados have been active in Venezuela for years (and their predecessors, the Circulos Bolivarianos, date back to the early Chavez years), and have become a staple of the Maduro regime’s repertoire of protest repression.

Likely fearful that the rank-and-file of the National Guard and the National Bolviarian Police cannot be trusted to carry out sustained repression of anti-government protests, Maduro has made calls for the colectivos to defend his government in recent weeks.

In a televised address two weeks ago, Maduro said:

This messages goes out to the foundations of the popular forces, the colectivos, the UBCh [a PSUV militia]. Attention, colectivos! Attention, UBch! They [the opposition] are moving dollars around there [sic]. Let’s go. One thousand ears, one thousand eyes, one thousand hands to defend the country’s territorial peace. Be focused. Be focused on the civil-military union to continue to guarantee peace…

More recently, PSUV vice president Diosdado Cabello recorded a video with a members of a colectivo armado in which he said that the men were “training for peace”:

Loyal, always! Traitors, never! [repeated] Here we are, right in the middle of training for peace. Not only peace for the chavistas: peace for the opposition, and peace for those who don’t like politics. It’s our obligation to protect peace. Our people are organized, trained, alert and ready to defend peace. Today, we witnessed some extraordinary training by the integral defense popular units and the cuadrillas defensoras la paz [a relatively new term used by the regime to refer to colectivos]. Those who are right here are the defenders of peace. Long live peace!

Reuters: PDVSA Oil Exports Stable in March

Reuters reported this afternoon that oil exports from the state-owned PDVSA oil firm were stable in March at around 1 million barrels per day despite sanctions from the U.S. government against the company.

According to Reuters:

The OPEC member stabilized exports in March after shipments fell about 40 percent in February from the month before, in the immediate aftermath of the United States announcing it would impose sanctions on oil sales to choke off main source of revenue for the government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

According to “documents” seen by Reuters as well as data from Refinitiv Eikon, PDVSA exported an average of 980,355 barrels per day, down from 990,215 barrels per day in February.

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

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