About a Massacre

What happened in Tumeremo: your daily briefing for Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

For Tuesday, March 8, 2016. Translated by Javier Liendo.

Quinta Paila

It’s been 27 years since the massacre at El Amparo. The event is seared into my memory because during those months, we were doing a Confirmation course and father Matías Camuñas asked us to hold a vigil for the victims. What he didn’t tell us is that some of the survivors would be there. Like all of these events, the vigil went on with songs and prayers. Past midnight, we heard several gunshots against the church’s building.

Many neighbors kept the record of the yellow patrol vehicles used by the DISIP – a bizarre facsimile of New York’s famous cabs. It’s been 27 years of impunity, of disrespect for the victims’ rights, of their right to free themselves from the role they were given to justify the massacre: fishermen turned guerrilleros.

Atenas, the mine

The alleged murder of 28 miners in Tumeremo (South East of the country, near the border with Brazil) is reminiscent of the massacre at El Amparo. The difference lies in the illegality of mining in general: from extraction to this massacre.

It’s tough to read the testimonies of relatives accepting their loved ones’ deaths, convinced that there will be no justice, but demanding their bodies so they can bury them.

The opacity in the handling the whole affair, as well as the amount of murders, is somewhat similar to Ayotzinapa, a massacre that shook Latin American journalism. This sad precedent had an effect on how international media treated the news about the miners.

Francisco Rangel Gómez, governor of Bolívar, had to back down on his original statements denying the event: today he admitted that something had happened.

They say that a joint committee between the police and the army is carrying out the investigation; that the Prosecutor’s Office has appointed attorneys already, that the Ombudsman’s Office also sent a committee. But there’s no trace of the miners.

The people from Correo del Caroní have prepared a detailed chronicle of how events unfold. The pressure from relatives and neighbors forced the authorities to change their tune, at least, but I insist, the illegal nature of the job and its conditions, and that of the whole system in which it’s practiced, makes people fear reprisals – whether from criminals or the government – if they formalize their reports and testimonies.

What we know

Relatives blame El Topo, a criminal gang which controls mining operations in the area. Presumably there are survivors of the massacre who say that CICPC and SEBIN officers stopped miners on a road checkpoint operating during Friday, and then shot at them.

Deputy Américo de Grazia has condemned the miners’ disappearance, saying that an event of this magnitude could’ve only happened with the complicity of authorities. Relatives fear that, once the initial shock passes, authorities will “leave it like that” again. The alleged massacre will be the first point of discussion during this Tuesday’s National Assembly meeting.

On and on about the decree

This Monday, the Armed Forces issued a statement about the extension of the decree that marks Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to United States security, declaring “their profound indignation and absolute condemnation of such an unfortunate and absurd decision.” According to them, the U.S., with their military power, shouldn’t consider anyone a threat, and doing so is an evidence of meddling, imperialism, disrespect and lack of “political logic.”

In fact, Tareck William Saab was even more emphatic in condemning the decree, than in demanding a fast investigation on the alleged massacre of Tumeremo. Speaking of smoke screens.

Joining efforts

A group of former Latin American and Spanish presidents requested the OAS this Monday to apply the Inter American Democratic Charter on Venezuela to resolve the country’s institutional crisis: “We urge the Organization of American States, and the Secretary General of the OAS in particular, to urgently take any initiatives he finds pertinent within the scope of the Inter American Democratic Charter.” This request supports the one made last Thursday by the MUD’s caucus in the National Assembly.

Patricio Walker, president of the Chilean senate, announced that he would propose the creation of an international parliamentary front to support Venezuelan democracy, to demand the Government to respect Parliament’s legitimacy. This international front will also demand the release of political prisoners. Appropriate, considering that Manuel Rosales’ preliminary hearing took place today. He’ll be tried for the crimes he’s accused of and during the trial, he’ll remain in El Helicoide’s prison.

Protests

Water rationing, frequent power outages, a sudden increment of the transportation fee -from Bs. 20 to Bs. 40- and the shortage of food and medicines, keep causing protests around the country. If the Government decided to focus half of the effort they’ve dedicated to Obama’s decree, in solving any of these issues, our situation would be different. Inflation rates keep rising and no salary increase will help shorten the price gaps that grow weekly for almost every product. It’s absurd.

Add it up with the fact that there have been 924 violent deaths only in Greater Caracas in the first two months of 2016, a number that breaks our own record for the past seven years, confirming our sad ranking as the world’s most violent city. But you know, the government’s propaganda machine mustn’t stop highlighting commemorative events for el finado. Quinta república, quinta paila.

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