Friday, 14 March 2014

Violence in Venezuela: a sense of perspective

Here I will focus on events in Valencia only, but a similar situation is present in most of Venezuela's main cities.

There is violence from both sides and violence should always be condemned. And yet it is also clear the current government of Venezuela uses the colectivos to terrorise neighbourhoods that show any opposition against the government. That is the main reason why it's not so easy to ask for concessions from both parties in just the same way. Many of those keeping up the blockades are afraid the heavily armed bikers will be able to get into their buildings and shoot indiscriminately at them if blockades are lifted. Venezuelans know the government is on the side of the bikers, Venezuelans have seen time after time how national cops vanish or do nothing when the paramilitary attack people who openly criticise the government.

Maduro said 13 March that the bikers or colectivos - paramilitary groups supporting the government - were defeating the "coup d'etat".

"Este golpe de Estado continuado que ya está derrotado, pero que sigue haciéndole daño al pueblo, ha permitido que los motorizados irrumpan como un actor para el bien de la Patria. Ahora ustedes son visibles, ya no serán más estigmatizados. Los motorizados actuarán haciendo la paz y en este momento están derrotando un golpe de Estado".

My literal translation:

This permanent coup d'etat  has already been defeated but that is still hurting people, has allowed the bikers to become actors for the well-being of the fatherland. Now you are invincible, you won't be stigmatized any longer. The bikers will act bringing in peace and in this moment they are defeating a coup.

Nicolás Maduro talks all the time about the opposition as coupsters. The paradoxical thing is that his beloved "intellectual father", Chávez, and a third of his current ministers were military coupsters who raised against a democratic government (they did that in 1992 and used as excuse a very bloody event in 1989 that was to a large extent their own responsability, although they blaimed the president and a couple of other high ranking individuals alone).
One of those military, Francisco Ameliach, is now the governor of Carabobo. During the campaign for the local elections in 2013 Ameliach, like Maduro, repeatedly accused opposition candidates of being thieves. Ameliach said the opposition candidates would end up in jail. Here you can read and hear how that militar threatened the then candidate Cocchiola with jail for being a thief. Cocchiola was at that moment in the USA attending family matters and the national government was accusing him of running away from justice. Even Maduro said on national TV Cocchiola was going to jail. Cocchiola returned and was easily elected as mayor for Valencia. He has been one of the opposition politicians who have collaborated the most with the regime, but relations are anything but nice. He hasn't been to jail yet and I suppose this will just be used as a sort of Democles sword if Cocchiola becomes too critical of the national government.
This is the approximate voters' distribution for April 2013: blue for Capriles, red for Maduro. One dot= +- 1000 voters

On 13 February, one day after national protests started, a group of National Guards detained two young people from Valencia, burnt their car, hit them, tortured them. One of them was raped with a rifle. The National Attorney and other national officials have questioned the reports about the rape produced by known Venezuelan physicians.

According to Gabriela Ramírez, a state officer who is Defensora del Pueblo or National Ombudswoman for Human Rights, torture is only when the person inflicting pain is doing so to gain information from you (watch minute 3:00 to 3:11). Otherwise, it is just a disproportionate use of force. Before being the human rights ombudsperson, Ramírez was just known as an activist of Chavismo. It is really a shame that the United Nations has repeatedly recognised this woman as a kosher representative in spite of her having the most pro-government stance you can imagine. I wonder when Amnesty International is going to say something clear about this case.

Very early on 18 February several students went to protest in the very poor sector Tocuyito. They were shot at.

At 2 pm on the same day a mass of students went to march at the Avenida Cedeno, which is just 5 streets from Valencia's very small centre. They were on the Cedeno Avenue and wanted to go further South when the colectivos appeared from the West and started shooting at them. The government police disappeared from the place and allowed the colectivos to go on shooting. People ran for their lives. 

Ameliach had previously sent a tweet to the paramilitary stating "be prepared for the fulminating counter-attack, Diosdado [Cabello, another military coupster and current head of the National Assembly] will give the order".

Here you can see how students were marching from East to West before they were attacked.  Here a longer video.
This video (North-South take) shows some of the gangsters still shooting but  once they had dispersed most students.

About 10 students were wounded. The 23-year old Génesis Carmona was shot dead. She received a bullet on the back of her head.

Ameliach later deleted his tweet.

Maduro is so shameless that he explained the bullet came from the back as a proof Génesis was killed by her own people. This man is utterly despicable and he is supposed to be the president of the country.

On 22 in lower-middle class Naguanagua a guardia nacional shot Geraldine Moreno Orozco, a 23-year old woman, on the face. She died a day later. She was just watching a protest.
Clashes have repeatedly taken place in La Isabelica, which is a poor sector slightly to the Northeast of Valencia's city centre. There the paramilitary and the National Guard have shot and hit a lot of people. One of the best known cases was that of a woman who was repeatedly beaten with a helmet when she was lying on the street. The case is well-known because there are several videos and shots about the situation.

National guard Ramsor Ernesto Bracho Bravo was shot dead at a clash in Northern Valencia. Seven students were also wounded. I ignore how he was killed but the national head of the National Guard came to Valencia to see to it that his body is transported as that of a heroe.  And here I read that the same Ramsor Bracho Bravo was involved in the murder of a 50-year-old lady ten years ago. That lady was an activist of the Acción Democrática party and she was shot dead by the Guardia Nacional in the Western state of Zulia. Was that a coincidence?

On the same day a student in La Isabelica was killed by a shot in the chest. The shot came from the colectivos. A middle-age man and a six-year old girl who were just in the area were also killed.

Most of Valencia is now clearly pro-opposition, even rather poor areas. Only the poorest areas have still a majority that supports the government, although that majority is dwindling. But it takes a lot of guts to go to the streets and say you want this government to go if less than 70% of the population is not with you. That is how it goes in Venezuela right now.

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