EspañolLast night, violence reigned in Venezuela. The repression of the people at the hands of the National Guard and the Bolivarian National Police was evidenced through photographs, recordings, and video taken by demonstrators.
However, what Venezuelans are living through at the moment goes far beyond traditional protests. We are witnessing armed military personnel combined with armed civilians, backed by the same government, attacking peaceful citizens expressing their dissent. Within this chaotic conflict, criminals have seized an ideal opportunity to take to the streets and act with impunity.
Protesters made their presence felt throughout the country — with pans, burning tires, garbage — and obstructed public roads. The military, however, have put an end to all demonstrations, bonfires, and vigils they have encountered.
¡En Valencia se vive el infierno! «¡Sálvese quién pueda!».
¡Calma, cordura y organización!
Sí, vamos a salir de ésto! pic.twitter.com/4invqu8ovV
— César (@CesarOpina) February 20, 2014
Impresionante foto- en Cabimas. Edo. Zulia pic.twitter.com/I7hscLZ6Sq
— Euro Vilchez (@Soy_Pueblo_) February 19, 2014
As thousands of protesters were assaulted, wounded, kidnapped, arrested, and even murdered, President Nicolás Maduro addressed the country on national television and radio and spoke as if everything was under control. For over three hours, the president engaged in a dual discourse, calling for peace but at the same time condemning the “fascists” — a term he uses to identify the opposition. Maduro made it very clear: if the violence continues, he will not hesitate to suspend public services in Táchira, the state where the protests first began.
Minutes after the president’s speech, citizens of Táchira reported the suspension of internet services provided by state-owned CANTV. This left a large number of people without the means to communicate or a way to get information about what was happening in the streets.
— Anonymous Venezuela (@AnonymousVene10) February 20, 2014
Even though there have been seven deaths so far during the demonstrations, including six students, Maduro has condemned the accusations levied at militant “colectivo” groups.
“I do not accept the demonization campaign directed at Venezuelan colectivos. Let’s keep working. If there is a conscious anywhere, it is within these groups . . . I guarantee that what these colectivos are doing is working to produce, organic gardens, culture. In the past, they’ve needed to arm themselves, and now, they organize to protect their community.”
At the same time, social media users were reporting the sight of these Chavista colectivo groups all night — in the streets, on their motorcycles, firing their guns into the air, intimidating and warding off protesters. In Sucre, a municipality of Caracas, these armed groups broke down the entrance of a private residence and made their way through.
In other parts of the city, especially within the interior, the National Guard attacked demonstrators they encountered on the street. At various times, agents of the state opened fire on two unarmed civilians. All of these acts were recorded on video and distributed through social networking sites, given that no media outlet in Venezuela is allowed to report on this. According to the government, they “would be instigating violence.”
In addition to the threats and gun fire from the colectivos, demonstrators also reported being wounded by pellets and tear gas. Many of them have sought refuge within residential buildings in the area. However, once indoors, protestors reported still being attacked by military officials.
Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.