Español While protests continue in Venezuela, there is now new photographic evidence that proves what many students and leaders of the opposition have long since suspected and denounced: the presence of government infiltrators in opposition rallies.
Many peaceful demonstrations have consequently resulted in violence, the justification for heavy handed state repression. With over 2,000 detainees, 30 murdered, and dozens injured, these latest photographs have shaken Venezuela’s controversial uprising.
Last weekend, in Zulia — a western state of Venezuela — journalist Madelyn Palmar and her crew photographed and recorded members of the Bolivarian National Guard working alongside agent provocateurs who instigated riots and confrontations with opposition demonstrators. Palmar, who worked as a correspondent for Globovision, was not allowed by the television network to release these pictures, and her crew were immediately fired.
Palmar then resigned. She also denounced the critical censorship that the once opposition-owned TV channel has enforced on its reporters since its sale last year: “News stories would go out late at night at 10:00 pm, after all the entertainment programs, while the city was going through critical situations.”
Jesus Gonzalez, another journalist that resigned his post along with Palmar, added that the editors would cut out commentary, mute the sound of riots, and “all this translated into censorship of our work.” Palmar affirmed that “they would delete sounds and images that could compromise [the TV station] or that would be too harsh or critical towards the government.”
Palmar has now decided to reveal the pictures that caused her crew to lose their jobs.
— Madelyn Palmar (@Madepalmar) March 29, 2014
— Madelyn Palmar (@Madepalmar) March 29, 2014
— Juan Rodríguez (@JuanR2000) March 30, 2014
This would not be the first time infiltrators have been caught in opposition rallies. On February 27, during a demonstration in the city of Valencia, protesters captured a suspicious individual, who turned out to be Fernando Quesada, an agent of the National Guard dressed as a civilian, with a 9 mm weapon in his backpack. About a month ago, another National Guard agent who infiltrated a peaceful anti-government protest was caught in San Cristobal, Táchira state.
According to a leaked report by the prominent Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior and Justice have given orders to the Bolivarian National Police and the National Guard to spy on demonstrators. The range of actions go from tracing calls to taking pictures and videos to identify the leaders of the protests.
However, the envoy of agents to start violence has become more and more frequent. On March 13, for example, a violent group broke into the Torre Británica government building and tore it down. President Nicolás Maduro repudiated these acts and condemned them during a national television broadcast. However, many Venezuelans, including leader of the opposition Henrique Capriles, accused government provocateurs of being behind the attack, staged in an effort to blame student protesters. Capriles pointed out the fact that Maduro condemned these acts before they had even occurred.
Cómo Nicolás sabía casi 1 hr antes que ocurriría algo en la Torre Británica?Que descarados son!Quieren mantener violencia!
— Henrique Capriles R. (@hcapriles) March 13, 2014
“How did Maduro know almost an hour before that something would happen in the Torre Britanica? How shameless! They want to keep the violence going.”
For Roderick Navarro, founder of the Future Venezuela activist organization and a leader of the student movement, the National Guard “aims to deconstruct, weaken, trivialize and delegitimize the protests at any cost. They have already murdered defenseless civilians. They have sexually abused, electrocuted, and humiliated detained students. They have broken into homes with no search warrant. They have infringed on the law in every way. This [infiltration], however, is a different mechanism to end the protests.”
Navarro believes that whenever violence erupts during protests it is the work of agents of the National Guard and paramilitary groups (colectivos) that arrive at the anti-government rallies and intimidate protesters. The student leader believes that the antagonism has become a David-versus-Goliath conflict.
“People struggle to defend themselves: this is an asymmetrical war led by the regime against the people.”
However, Navarro believes that not all national guards are black sheep, and is hopeful that the good military will triumph evil.
“In the Military, there is an uprising, just as there is one on the streets: there is a fracture of an atrocious system that has taken away the institutional nature of the military, and the discontent will soon come to light. Patriot soldiers don’t tolerate that Cubans use Venezuelan uniforms, and give orders to their troops.”
“A lot of military officers are detained because they disobeyed the order to repress the people, and they don’t serve as mercenaries. The military is highly politicized at this moment, and this is why the regime can’t continue in power. It [the military] has to regain its institutionality, and that will be an achievement from this social conflict that we will win,” the student leader says.