2017 Venezuelan protests

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2017 Venezuelan protests
Part of 2014–17 Venezuelan protests
Mother of All Marches - Holding Flag.jpg
Venezuelan Assembly special session 01.jpg Fuera el Dictador.jpg
Top to bottom, left to right:
Mother of All Marches on Francisco Fajardo Freeway. Julio Borges speaking on 1 April following the 2017 Venezuelan constitutional crisis. Image of President Maduro reading "Get out dictator".
Date January 2017 – present
Location Venezuela
Parties to the civil conflict

Venezuelan opposition


National Assembly (majority)


Democratic Unity Roundtable
(VP, PF, UNT, AD, COPEI and others)


Movimiento Estudiantil
(Student opposition organization)


Anti-government protesters

  • Anti-government students
Lead figures
Number

Mother of All Marches
6 million (Nationally)[1][2]


Hundreds of thousands (Daily)[5]
Thousands[6]
Casualties
Death(s) 54[a]
Injuries 13,050[7]
Arrested 2,459[7]

The 2017 Venezuelan protests are a series of protests occurring throughout Venezuela. Protests began in January 2017 after the arrest of multiple opposition leaders and the cancellation of dialogue between the opposition and Nicolás Maduro's government.

As the tensions continued, the 2017 Venezuelan constitutional crisis began in late March when the pro-Maduro Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) dissolved the opposition-led National Assembly, with the intensity of protests increasing greatly throughout Venezuela following the decision.[8][9][10] Into April, the protests grew "into the most combative since a wave of unrest in 2014" resulting from the crisis[11] with hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans protesting daily through the month and into May.[12]

Background

Late-2015 video of Venezuelans eating from garbage.

Following the death of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuela faced a severe socioeconomic crisis during the presidency of his successor, Nicolás Maduro, as a result of Chávez's policies and Maduro's continuation of them.[13][14][15][16] Due to the country's high levels of urban violence, inflation, and chronic shortages of basic goods attributed to economic policies such as strict price controls,[17][18] civil insurrection in Venezuela culminated in the 2014–17 protests.[19][20]

Protests occurred over the years, with demonstrations occurring in various intensities depending on the crises Venezuelans were facing at the time and the perceived threat of being repressed by authorities.[21][22][23][24]

The discontent with the Bolivarian government saw the opposition being elected to hold the majority in the National Assembly for the first time since 1999 following the 2015 parliamentary election.[25] As a result of that election, the lame duck National Assembly consisting of Bolivarian officials filled the TSJ with allies.[25][26]

Into early 2016, the TSJ alleged that voting irregularities occurred in the 2015 parliamentary elections and stripped four lawmakers of their seats, preventing an opposition supermajority in the National Assembly which would be able to challenge President Maduro.[25] The TSJ court then began to approve of multiple actions performed by Maduro and granted him more powers.[25]

After facing years of crisis, the Venezuelan opposition pursued a recall referendum against President Maduro, presenting a petition to the National Electoral Council (CNE) on 2 May 2016.[27] By August 2016, the momentum to recall President Maduro appeared to be progressing, with the CNE setting a date for the second phase of collecting signatures, though it made the schedule strenuous, stretching the process into 2017 which made it impossible for the opposition to activate new presidential elections.[28]

On 21 October 2016, the CNE suspended the referendum only days before preliminary signature-gatherings were to be held.[29]

The CNE blamed alleged voter fraud as the reason for the cancellation of the referendum.[29] International observers criticized the move, stating that CNE's decision made Maduro look as if he were seeking to rule as a dictator.[30][31][32][33]

Days after the recall movement was cancelled, 1.2 million Venezuelans protested throughout the country against the move, demanding President Maduro to leave office, with Caracas protests remaining calm while protests in other states resulted in clashes between demonstrators and authorities, leaving one policeman dead, 120 injured and 147 arrested.[34] That day the opposition gave President Maduro a deadline of 3 November 2016 to hold elections, with opposition leader Henrique Capriles stating, "Today we are giving a deadline to the government. I tell the coward who is in Miraflores ... that on 3 November the Venezuelan people are coming to Caracas because we are going to Miraflores".[34]

Days later on 1 November 2016, then National Assembly President and opposition leader Henry Ramos Allup announced the cancellation of the 3 November march to the Miraflores presidential palace, with Vatican-led dialogue between the opposition and the government beginning.[35]

By 7 December 2016, dialogue halted between the two[36] and two months later on 13 January 2017 after talks stalled, the Vatican officially pulled out of the dialogue.[37]

Timeline

Protests were originally much smaller in the early months of 2017 due to the fear of repression.[38] The first large protest to occur in 2017 was on 23 January 2017, with several thousand Venezuelans participating. Following that day of protest, opposition leader Henrique Capriles stated that only surprise protests would occur for the meantime.[38]

The following day, the first surprise demonstration occurs with only hundreds of Venezuelans attending, blocking the Francisco Fajardo highway in both directions holding a sign saying "Elections now", with Venezuelan authorities not being able to respond until an hour later when the protest was peacefully broken up.[39] There were no other surprise protests to follow.

Constitutional crisis

Students protesting against rulings outside of the TSJ on 31 March 2017.

On 29 March 2017, the 2017 Venezuelan constitutional crisis begins, with immunity being taken away from opposition parliamentarians by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Venezuela (TSJ), with the TSJ assuming legislative powers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.[40][41] Days later, the Supreme Court reversed its decision on 1 April, though the opposition argued that the juridic action was still a "coup".[42] Protests following the constitutional crisis grew "into the most combative since a wave of unrest in 2014".[8][9] Weeks later on 14 April 2017, the opposition announced the "Grand March and Great Taking in All States", later known as the "Mother of All Marches", to take place on 19 April to "overflow" Caracas.[43][44]

Mother of All Marches

Altamira Square, one of the meeting points of the Mother of All Marches.

On 19 April 2017, the "mother of all protests", as it was called by organizers,[45] occurred. The day began with demonstrators gathering around the country at about 10:30 a.m., with Caracas having 26 different routes for the main march to head to the office of the Ombudsman to demonstrate.[46] As the march progressed through Caracas, the National Guard began to block routes and fire tear gas at marchers at 11:50 a.m., with the demonstrators refusing to leave despite the use of force.[46] At about 12:30 p.m., demonstrations by both opposition and pro-government Venezuelans fill Caracas' avenues.[46] Shortly after 12:45 p.m., protesters on the Francisco Fajardo Freeway near Bello Monte begin to flee the area after enduring over an hour of tear gas from authorities, with many leaping into the Guaire River, which is used for sewage drainage, to avoid the gas.[47][48] Near 2:10 p.m., a 17-year-old boy was shot in the head and killed at a protest.[46]

Video showing the murder of Paola Ramirez by colectivos.

At about 4:35 p.m., pro-government paramilitaries called colectivos shot and killed Paola Ramirez, a 23-year-old woman who was protesting.[46] Later in the evening, a National Guardsman was killed south of Caracas, the first authority killed in the year's protests, with the day's deaths raising the death toll of the 2017 protests to at least 8 people.[49] By 9:00 p.m., the Penal Forum stated that 521 Venezuelans had been arrested throughout the day, bringing the number of total arrests since the beginning of the year to over 1,000.[50] Several media outlets stated "hundreds of thousands" participated[51] while Central University mathematics professor Ricardo Rios estimated at least 1.2 million protested, which would make it the largest protest in Venezuela's history.[52] According to pollster Meganálisis, 2.5 million Venezuelans protested in Caracas alone, while 6 million protested throughout the country.[1][3][4]

OAS withdrawal

The Bolivarian government began efforts to withdraw from the Organization of American States, a two-year process, on 26 April 2017, after multiple member states called for a special session to discuss Venezuela's crisis.[53]

Following the death of a student the same day, the son of Ombudsman Tarek Saab, Yibram Saab, uploaded a video on YouTube stating that he had protested that night and that "That could've been me!", condemning what he called "the brutal repression by the country's security forces", and pleading to his father saying "Dad, in this moment you have the power to end the injustice that has sunk this country. I ask you as your son and in the name of Venezuela, to whom you serve, that you reflect on the situation and do what you have to do".[54][55][56]

Constituent assembly proposal

A statue of Hugo Chávez destroyed in Zulia on 5 May.

On 1 May 2017, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans protested, attempting to march to various government buildings to have their demands met. Police responded to the peaceful marches violently, firing tear gas, with one National Assembly member, Jose Olivares, being struck in the head with a tear gas canister, which led to heavy bleeding. President Maduro announced later that day plans to replace the National Assembly with a communal national assembly and called for the drafting of a new constitution under a handpicked constituent assembly, the third in modern times.

The move by President Maduro would also allow him to stay in power during the interregnum, essentially nullifying the 2018 presidential elections, as the constitutional process would take at least two years.[57][58]

According to Reuters, "Maduro's call ... to rewrite the constitution has energized the protest movement".[59]

Venezuelan authorities beating and shooting protesters on 10 May

Hundreds of thousands of people marched on 3 May, denouncing President Maduro's proposed rewrite of the constitution. The clashes between protesters and authorities left more than 300 injured and one dead; in one incident, National Guard VN-4 armoured personnel carriers rammed protesters who were rushing a group of guardsmen. A video went viral of President Maduro dancing on state television while National Guardsmen were seen using tear gas on protesters nearby.[12][60] Reuters again noted that "images of a military vehicle running over a demonstrator ... caused further outrage", with protests continuing.[59]

Opposition officials, on 5 May, draped a large banner down the side of the National Assembly's administrative building high above central Caracas reading "Dictator Maduro".[61] Citizens of La Villa del Rosario burned and tore down a statue of late President Hugo Chávez, an act compared to the destruction of Saddam Hussein's statue in Iraq as well as other instances of statue toppling during times of popular unrest.[62][63]

Millions of Venezuelans marching on 20 May during the We Are Millions march.

President Maduro announced a plan of "a military constituency to deepen the Bolivarian military revolution within the very heart of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces" on 8 May, calling for the military to help draft a new constitution with the goal to "strengthen the union" between the military and civilians.[64] On 13 May 2017, President Maduro declared a "State of Emergency and Economic Emergency throughout the national territory" in the Official Gazette N° 6,298, creating the possibility of granting Maduro more decree powers and the power to temporarily suspend some constitutional rights.[65]

On the 50th day of consecutive protests, millions of Venezuelans protested in Caracas on 20 May during the "We Are Millions" march, demanding an end to violent repression and immediate elections.[66] The day resulted in over 120 injured in Caracas alone,[67] while one man was killed in Valera, Trujillo by colectivo members despite nearby police presence.[68]

Barinas riots

It is pretty symbolic that the citizens are venting their frustrations on the author of the Bolivarian revolution

Eric Farnsworth, vice president of Council of the Americas[69]

Residents of Barinas – the hometown of President Maduro's predecessor, late President Hugo Chávez – began the day by demonstrating against Maduro's proposed constitutional changes.[70] Following the death of Yorman Alí Bervecia and Jhon Alberto Quintero on 22 May, who were allegedly killed by the National Guard during the protests, citizens of Barinas began to riot.[71] Individuals began to attack state institutions and buildings of the ruling PSUV party, including the local CNE office, the Barinas state PSUV headquarters and the La Concordia police station, where uniforms and firearms were stolen.[70] Residents later turned their attention to the birthplace home of the late President Hugo Chávez, burning his childhood residence.[71] Five statues of Chávez were also destroyed in the area's rioting.[69] Among the chaos in "the cradle of Chavez's revolution",[69] former chavistas were seen gathered and burning government related paraphernalia, denouncing President Maduro as "a tyrant" while chanting that his days were numbered as the leader of Venezuela.[72] As the day concluded, over 50 stores were looted in Barinas, while two additional deaths were recorded, with the death toll rising to 4 killed as well as reports of hundreds being injured.[70][71][73] Opposition leaders condemned the violence as the Barinas riots overshadowed their official demonstrations surrounding the healthcare of Venezuela that day.[71][74]

Protest violence

Deaths

State # of deaths Sources
Amazonas 0
Anzoátegui 0
Apure 0
Aragua 0
Barinas 6 [71][73][75]
Bolívar 0 [75]
Carabobo 9 [75][76]
Cojedes 0
Delta Amacuro 0
Falcón 0
Guárico 0
Lara 5 [75]
Mérida 3 [75]
Miranda (Caracas) 22 [75]
Monagas 0
Nueva Esparta 0
Portuguesa 0
Sucre 0
Táchira 6 [75]
Trujillo 1 [77]
Vargas 0
Yaracuy 0
Zulia 2 [75]
Total 54

The first known protest-related killing was that of Jairo Johan Ortiz Bustamante (aged 19) who was shot dead near a protest on 6 April 2017 in Miranda by a transit police officer, Rohenluis Leonel Mata,[78] with one police officer being arrested in connection. On 10 April, Daniel Alejandro Queliz Araca (aged 20) was killed during protests in Valencia after being shot in the neck.[79]

On 11 April, 14 year-old Bryan David Jeménez Principal was killed in Barquisimeto after being shot in the abdomen while protesting.[79] Miguel Ángel Colmenares Milano (aged 36), was shot 11 times by colectivos who identified themselves as National Guardsmen in the state of Lara, according to witnesses.[79][80] Gruseny Antonio Canelón Scripatempo (aged 32) was shot multiple times and killed in Lara during an anti-government protest, with 14 National Guardsmen later being arrested according to the government.[79][80]

Paola Ramírez's covered body after she was killed

During the Mother of All Marches, Carlos José Moreno Varón (aged 17) was shot in the head by individuals on a motorcycle and killed[80] while Paola Andreina Ramírez Gómez (aged 23) was shot in the chest in San Cristóbal, Táchira. Later that night, according to the prosecutor's office, Pernia Dávila, a pro-government "colectivo", turned himself in to authorities and said he shot Gómez from the roof of his building. Seven civilians were killed before the first death of an authority occurred during the Mother of All Marches.[46] The first member of the security forced to be killed in the protests was a National Guardsman named Nuinar José Sanclemente Barrios during the march. His was the eighth death of the year.[49][80]

The following night on 20 April and the early morning of 21 April, 12 Venezuelans died in the deadliest night of the year to that date.[81] Elio Manuel Pacheco Pérez (20), Jairo Ramírez (47), Robert Joel Centeno Briceño (29), William Heriberto Marrero Rebolledo (33), Jonathan Meneses (27), Stivenson Zamora (21), Kenyer Alexander Aranguren Pérez (20) and Yorgeiber Rafael Barrena Bolívar (15) died after being electrocuted while allegedly looting a bakery in El Valle.[80]

Also in El Valle, Albert Alejandro Rodríguez Aponte (16) died after suffocating on tear gas while Ramón Ernesto Martínez Cegarra (28), Francisco Javier González Nùñez (34) and Kevin Steveen León Garzón (19) we shot dead during protests.[80] Mervin Fernández Guitian Díaz (aged 25), a man with reported "mental and psychosocial disabilities", was shot by a National Guardsman.[80] On 23 April, during a pro-government march, Almelina Carrillo Virgüez (aged 47) died as a result of being struck in the head with a bottle on 19 April. (On 3 May, the public ministry charged Jesús Juan Albi Zambito with her murder.)[79]

On 24 April, Jesús Leonardo Sulbarán (aged 42), a Mérida state official was shot and killed at a pro-government rally while Renzo Jesús Rodríguez Roda (aged 54) was killed near a protest. Luis Alberto Márquez (aged 52) was killed while observing an opposition protest after being shot in the head.[80] Christian Humberto Ochoa Soriano, 22, observed police officers blanketing his neighborhood with gunfire. He reportedly got down on his knees and put his hands on his head, pleading with officers after being approached, but was subsequently shot and then beaten by four officers while a neighbor who recorded the incident had their phone stolen by the officers, with Ochoa later dying at a hospital.[80] On 25 April, Orlando Johan Jhosep Medina Águila (aged 23) was killed at a protest in the early morning. Eyker Daniel Rojas Gil (aged 20), was shot by National Guardsmen near a protest in Barquisimeto on 26 April.[80]

Juan Pablo Pernalete Llovera (aged 20), an economics student of the Universidad Metropolitana, was killed on 27 April by the impact of a tear gas canister in his chest during protests in Altamira. Ramón Muchacho, mayor of Chacao, reported he arrived at Salud Chacao without vital signs.[82] Eyker Daniel Rojas Gil (aged 20), was shot dead by National Guardsmen in Barquisimeto, Lara.[75] By the end of April, The Economist noted that "At least 29 people have died since March in the worst unrest in three years. Many of these were killed by armed gangs that support the government, called colectivos".[83]

The body of Miguel Castillo Bracho being released from the morgue.

During protests on 2 May, Ángel Enrique Moreira González (aged 28), was hit by a truck while riding his motorcycle near a protest at the Prados del Este highway; he later died of his injuries. Yonathan Quintero (aged 20) was also killed during a protest.[80] Carlos Eduardo Aranguren Salcedo (aged 30), was killed after being shot twice while passing by a protest being repressed by the National Guard.[75] María de los Angeles Guanipa Barrientos (aged 36) and Ana Victoria Colmenares de Hernández (aged 43) were killed after their vehicle struck a barricade in Carabobo.[75]

On 3 May, Gerardo Barrera (aged 38), a policeman was shot and killed in Carabobo while Juan Lopez (aged 33), a student leader in Anzoategui state was approached and shot dead while speaking at an assembly.[59] Armando Cañizales Carrillo (aged 18) was shot in the neck and killed while protesting.[80] On 4 May, a two-month-old infant died from respiratory complications in Valencia due to the National Guard's heavy usage of tear gas in the area[76] while Hecder Lugo Pérez (aged 20) was shot and killed by National Guard shotgun fire at a protest in San Diego, Carabobo.[75][80] Miguel Joseph Medina Romero (aged 20) died on 5 May after being shot at a demonstration being suppressed by National Police in Pomona, Zulia on 3 May.[75] Anderson Enrique Dugarte (aged 32) was killed after being shot in the head in Campo Elías, Mérida on 8 May.[75]

The body of Yorman Alí Bervecia whose death sparked violent protests in Barinas on 22 May.

Miguel Castillo Bracho (aged 27) was killed on 10 May after being shot in the chest with a tear gas canister by a National Guardsman,[84][85][86][87] while Anderson Enrique Dugarte (aged 32), who had been shot on 8 May in Mérida near a protest, succumbed to his injuries.[80]

During another national sit-in on 15 May, four individuals were killed from gunshot wounds. 18-year-old Luis José Alviárez Chacón and 32-year-old Diego Armando Hernández Baron were shot dead in Táchira, with one police officer being charged with the death of Hernández. In Barinas, Yeison Mora Castillo, aged 17, was killed after being shot in the face by a National Guardsman while Diego Arellano, aged 31, died on 16 May during surgery following a gunshot wound to the chest from a member of the National Guard.[88][89]

15-year-old Jose Francisco Guerrero was killed after being shot in the back by the National Guard during a protest in San Cristóbal, Táchira.[75] On 17 May, Manuel Felipe Castellanos (aged 46) was killed in Cárdenas, Táchira while searching for diapers for his son, with three National Guardsmen being charged for his death.[75]

On 18 May, Paul René Moreno (aged 24), a student of medicine at University of Zulia and a member of the Green Cross, was killed after being struck by an armored Toyota Hilux.[90] During evening protests that day, 16-year-old Daniel Rodríguez was killed after being shot in the head by colectivo members while protesting in Córdoba, Táchira.[91] 37-year-old Jorge Escandón, a police officer in Carabobo, died of gunshot wounds inflicted upon him on 15 May.[75] During evening protests on 20 May, Alejandro Aguilar was killed in Valera, Trujillo by colectivo members despite nearby police presence.[77]

Protesters turned violent on 22 May in Barinas following the death of 19-year-old Yorman Alí Bervecia and Jhon Alberto Quintero, who were both shot.[71] Two other deaths occurred in Barinas, with Adonis Perez and Alfredo Carrizales also being killed.[73]

Torture and abuses

I order SEBIN to sue those spokesmen of the opposition who are accusing of barbarities and improper acts that are never discussed in this republic.

President Nicolás Maduro[92]

Venezuela's intelligence agency, SEBIN, was ordered by President Maduro on 16 April to take legal actions against individuals who state that they have been tortured by authorities.[92]

Human rights groups have stated that Venezuelan authorities have used force to gain confessions. Foro Penal stated that "most of the detainees are beaten once they are arrested, while they are being transferred to a temporary detention site where they are to be brought before a judge", giving one instance with "a group of 40 people arrested for alleged looting, 37 reported that they were beaten before their hair was forcefully shaved off their heads". In other examples of abuses, "15 reported that they were forced to eat pasta with grass and excrement. The regime’s officials forced dust from tear gas canisters up their noses to pry open their mouths. They then shoved the pasta with excrement in their mouths and made them swallow it".[93]

According to the Justice and Peace Commission of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, many other cases of abuses have been recorded. In one instance, a woman was arrested in Altos Mirandinos by the National Guard where she was beaten and then urinated on by three National Guardsmen who threatened to rape her.[94]

Use of chemical agents

In 2017, Amnesty International once again criticized the Bolivarian government's usage of chemical agents, expressing concern of a "red gas" used to suppress protesters in Chacao on 8 April 2017, demanding "clarification of the components of the red tear gas used by state security forces against the opposition demonstrations".[95] Experts stated that all tear gas used by authorities should originally be colorless, noting that the color may be added to provoke or "color" protesters so they can easily be identified and arrested.[96]

On 10 April 2017, Venezuelan police fired tear gas at protesters from helicopters flying overhead, resulting with demonstrators fleeing the scene in order to avoid being hit by the high-velocity canisters.[97]

Law enforcement

Plan Zamora

Sadly, this is the beginning of a war, gentlemen ... They will continue until reaching the point where an intervention is justified. Let’s not fool ourselves. Sadly, it fell to our generation to live with this conflict, and we have to assume it to the degree that is being demanded by our country.

Unidentified Venezuelan general[98]

Over 2,000 security checkpoints were ordered by President Maduro on 15 April, which would be established throughout Venezuela prior to the 19 April "mega march", with nearly 200,000 Venezuelan authorities said to be participating.[99] Finally on 18 April, President Maduro "green-lighted" Plan Zamora, a plan compared to the heavily criticized Plan Ávila,[100] and was described by officials as "a joint strategic plan to respond to possible adverse events or foreign intervention that endangers the country's security".[101][102] Antonio Benavides, commander of the Bolivarian National Guard, stated that the plan involved "the incorporation of the people to exercise the transition from normal social activity to the state of internal or external commotion", granting Bolivarian civilians the power to act as shock troops.[102] The plan also granted the Bolivarian state the power to arrest protesters under martial law and have civilians face military tribunals, which was heavily criticized by human rights groups.[103][101] Civilians accused of attacking military authorities would be charged with "rebellion" and could be summarily tried in military courts.[101]

Use of snipers

In late-April, days after the Mother of All Marches, generals of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela gathered in Barquisimeto at discussion chaired by Lara Division General José Rafael Torrealba Pérez; with Brigadier General Hernán Enrique Homez Machado (National Guard), Brigadier General Carlos Enrique Quijada Rojas (Air Force), Brigadier General Dilio Rafael Rodríguez Díaz (Army), Brigadier General Joel Vicente Canelón (Army) and Brigadier General Iván Darío Lara Lander (Army) attending.[98]

At the meeting, Torrealba suggests the use of snipers against protesters, explaining that sniper candidates must be chosen out of loyalty, telling the generals "to make preparations with those individuals that can serve as snipers, beginning with psychological and aptitude tests". He further explained the risk of civil war, stating that President Maduro "has already signed a range of operations and as I said ... we could be at the beginning of a subversive urban war". Despite the objection by an attending general, Torrealba insisted that the snipers would scare protesters off the street, saying "it will only be us that pulls through because ... once people start to see dead bodies, and dead bodies begin to appear, then everyone will begin to stay at home ... You will remember my words, the armed forces are the ones that have to solve this problem".[98]

On 22 May, it was reported that snipers supposedly belonging to the National Guard were firing from the Center for Education and Development of Petróleos de Venezuela rooftops in the El Hatillo Municipality.[104]

Civilian groups

Bolivarian Militia and colectivos

On 1 February 2017, President Maduro announced that the Bolivarian Militia would be directed towards an anti-protest objective, saying that his supporters "will multiply throughout the territory, special forces of rapid action, special troops of the militias ... to make our homeland impregnable".[105]

Two days before the Mother of All Marches, President Maduro on 17 April ordered the expansion of the Bolivarian Militia to involve 500,000 loyal Venezuelans, stating that each would be armed with a rifle and demanded the prevention of another event similar to the 2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt.[106]

Diosdado Cabello, a high-level PSUV official loyal to the Bolivarian government, stated that 60,000 motorized colectivos and the Bolivarian Militia would be spread throughout Caracas on 19 April "until necessary" to deter the opposition's "megamarch", calling their actions "terrorism".[107]

Media

Attacks on journalists

In the early days of the protests on 12 April, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued an advisory to journalists, stating:[108]

The CPJ offered advice on how to avoid aggression, how to react to tear gas and how to contact the organization to report any attacks on journalists.[108]

A female journalist is assaulted by the Venezuelan National Guard

During the Mother of All Marches, an El Nacional reporter was robbed by a Bolivarian National Police officer.[109] The following day, more than 50 government sympathizers attacked three El Nacional journalists on 20 April, near La India, beating them with sticks while also throwing rocks and bottles at them. Another journalist captured the attack on film.[109]

On 6 May during a women's march, reporters were attacked by state authorities throughout the country. In San Carlos, Cojedes, Alexander Olvera was kicked by a National Guardsman while covering a protest. A reporter for El Pitazo, Yessica Sumoza, was robbed of her equipment in Caracas, while in Aragua, local police struck Gaby Aguilar[who?] in the face with a stone. Alexander Medina of Radio Fe y Alegría, meanwhile, was surrounded by authorities in San Fernando, Apure who threatened to lynch the reporter.[110]

During protests on 8 May, there were 19 reports of attacks on journalists, with 5 instances involving protesters attempting to rob reporters, while the other 15 reports involved Venezuelan authorities and colectivos.[111]

On 10 May, 27-year-old Miguel Castillo Bracho, a journalist who had graduated the previous week, died after being shot in the chest with a tear gas canister by a National Guardsman while already being detained.[112][113][86][87] On 18 May, four journalists were attacked by the National Guard and had their equipment stolen, including Eugenio García of Spain, Herminia Rodríguez of Globovision, Andry Rincón of Vivoplaynet and Kevin Villamizar of El Nacional.[114]

During the 20 May protests, a graphic journalist of La Patilla was injured in Chacaíto after being shot in the leg with a tear gas canister.[115]

Censorship

President Maduro ordered cable providers to take CNN en Español off the air on 14 February 2017, days after CNN aired an investigation into the alleged fraudulent issuing of Venezuelan passports and visas. The news story revealed a confidential intelligence document that linked Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami to 173 Venezuelan passports and IDs issued to individuals from the Middle East, including people connected to the terrorist group Hezbollah.[116][117]

During the Mother of All Marches on 19 April, TN's satellite signal was censored from DirecTV after showing live coverage of the protests. El Tiempo of Colombia was also censored in the country during the day's protests.[118][119] That night, the National Commission of Telecommunications removed the Spanish channel Antena 3 from cable carriers, following rumors that they were going to cover the political crisis in Venezuela.[119]

False reports

Rachel Maddow stated in a segment of her show captioned "Unrest In Venezuela Over Trump Donations" that "today, Venezuelans are enraged anew by this brand-new FEC filing from the White House" which showed that the Venezuelan government-owned Citgo funded $500,000 towards the inauguration of Donald Trump. She suggested that Venezuelans were protesting over their government's payment toward the inauguration, despite the fact that Venezuelans were, in reality, protesting due to the socioeconomic crisis facing the country and the dictatorial nature of the Maduro government. Fox News' Tucker Carlson rebuked Maddow's comments, stating that "It's a disaster in Venezuela ... So given all of this, who did MSNBC blame for the turmoil there? If you guessed Donald Trump, give yourself a million worthless Venezuelan bolívars as a prize." PanAm Post criticized Maddow's comments in an article, "The Rachel Maddow Show's Fake News on Venezuela", after Maddow featured some of their work in the segment.[120][121]

Hacking

Venezuelans require their government-issued Carnet de la Patria ("Homeland" identity) cards to receive CLAP food.

On 6 May 2017, it was reported that two individuals on Twitter, @yosoyjustin and @ERHDP calling themselves TeamHDPP, breached several Venezuelan government agencies and Internet portals, hacking information from Carnet de la Patria holders. Hacker @yosoyjsutin stated that the hackings were "for all the Venezuelans fallen during the last days of protests in Venezuela. Their deaths will not be in vain". Details hacked included "identities, telephone numbers, email accounts, Twitter and addresses among other personal descriptions" of Bolivarian government officials and authorities, including those of National Bolivarian Police, CICPC, SEBIN, CONATEL and the Chancellery. The Carnet de la Patria accounts of President Nicolás Maduro, his wife (First Lady Cilia Flores), the Minister of Popular Power for Communication and Information Ernesto Villegas, Diosdado Cabello, Chancellor Delcy Rodríguez, Admiral Carmen Teresa Meléndez Rivas and other officials were also cancelled. The hackers added, "We have more than 450 PDF files and more than a thousand page conversations of them".[122]

International reactions

Venezuelans and activists harassed government officials and their families who enjoyed luxurious lifestyles compared to Venezuelan citizens.[123] The top income of a Venezuelan official would be approximately $700 per year. Despite this, family's of Bolivarian officials live abroad and even attend foreign universities.[123]

The daughter of Caracas mayor and Bolivarian official Jorge Rodríguez, Lucia Rodriguez, who is also the niece of foreign minister Delcy Rodríguez, resides in Australia attending SAE Institute. Human rights activists have criticized her lifestyle in Australia, with activists verbally attacking Rodriguez as she was at Bondi Beach sipping cocktails, requiring her personal body guard to intervene.[123] The former banking minister under Chávez, Eugenio Vasquez Orellana, was also harassed while eating at a Venezuelan bakery in Doral, Florida.[123] On 11 May, Venezuelans in Spain surrounded a cultural center in Spain preventing Venezuelan ambassador Mario Isea from leaving, with Isea calling the action a "kidnapping".[124]

President Maduro compared the verbal confrontations with Bolivarian sympathizers abroad to the Nazi persecution of the Jews, stating "We are the Jews of the 21st century". The Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela denounced Maduro's comparison to the Holocaust, stating "That episode in the history of humanity, which cost 6 million Jews their lives, among them 1.5 million children, is unique and incomparable" and that his comparison "offends the memory of the Victims and all who are direct mourners of this dark episode of humanity".[125][126]

See also

Protests

Timelines

References

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Notes

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