Saturday’s protests were marked by even harder repression from State forces than we’re used to. While media attention focuses mainly on Caracas, many parts Venezuela saw some serious action.
Protest in el interior weren’t that big, but they were passionate and often strongly repressed by the security forces.
Here’s a roundup of the situation.
In Maracay, 110 km. west of Caracas, the protests mostly focused on the Plaza Bicentenaria, near the city cathedral, and were led by deputy José Trujillo, with smaller groups protesting in La Soledad and Base Aragua.
El Siglo reports that the main group tried to go Northeast to Paseo Las Delicias, where both the City Hall and the state government seat are located, but they were quickly surrounded and dispersed by the Aragua State Police Motorcycle Unit.
Despite the relative calm of these protests compared to the rest of the country, 10 people were reportedly detained by the state police. The details are still unclear, but several sources confirm that some of them were members of the youth wing of Acción Democrática. Illich Sánchez, a professor at the local branch of the UPEL, posted on Twitter that at least four of them were also college students.
Meanwhile Caraota Digital posted a video from La Victoria apparently showing some local police officers marching while watching over the protesters. Some took it as a covert gesture of support, but considering what’s been happening in recent days, it’s hard to take these reports at face value.
In Valencia, Venezuela’s third largest city, the protests marked a rift between MUD leadership —such as Valencia mayor Miguel Cocchiola— and protesters, including some leaders from Primero Justicia, Voluntad Popular and Un Nuevo Tiempo.
The rally was originally set for El Trigal Highway Interchange in Northern Valencia, near the Universidad de Carabobo campus, but it detoured and went to the far busier San Blas Interchange where the Autopista Regional del Centro and the Autopista del Este —the main transit venue of two of the most populated regions in the country— connect.
Even though the PNB blocked access to San Blas, the remaining protesters clashed with police officers. Both Mayor Cocchiola and MUD General Secretary in Carabobo Carlos Santafé were quick to distance themselves from the San Blas protesters, but the damage was done.
Speaking of problems with violence, IPYS Venezuela reports that four journalists were attacked in Carabobo plus two photographers whose cameras were destroyed and were temporarily detained.
Mérida also had considerable civic participation in yesterday’s protests. The vibe was different this time. A sense of unrest have been felt in the whole State since last friday night, when 14 men were arrested while blocking El Vigia’s Chama Bridge (one of the state’s most concurred roads) protesting for the rampant scarcity the local hospital faces. They were eventually released under probation after intense pressure from the hundreds of people who waited outside the courts, asking for their immediate release.
Most of yesterday’s protests were formed by people spontaneously joining at rallying points. Although not as violent as marches in other locales of the country, merideños also had to face up against a hard repression from authorities and, while there were no official arrests, there are multiple reports of citizens detained, beaten and then released. Some of them were even given to pro-government civilian groups by police officers.
Local NGO, PROMEDEHUM reports about 30 confirmed protesters injured, but there might be as many as 50 of them. Most were wounded by buckshot pellets.
According to several witnesses, the pellets might have been modified to cause more damage than they should: pellets of non-standard dimensions, a higher gunpowder load in the shells to increase penetration and even shells filled with shattered glass and marbles are some of the most consistent reports.
Tear-gas launchers might’ve also been altered, with debris in their cannons as makeshift shrapnel. Most people wounded were under 20 years old and were attacked inside residential zones.
It’s standard operating procedure for regime forces to hit tachirenses hard, and these protests, specifically in San Cristóbal, were no exception. Turnout was big and peaceful. The protesters first gathered around an opposition classic spot: El Obelisco.
— VPItv (@VPITV) April 8, 2017
The crowd then went through the streets of Barrio Obrero which is where the governor’s house is located. Vielma Mora of course deployed a Politachira line round it.
Soon enough, the authorities started brutally repressing protesters. There were also reports of hooded men armed with shotguns and rifles, arriving on Mision transporte’s taxis to intimidate and disperse civilians.
— Diario de Los Andes (@diariodlosandes) April 9, 2017
Denuncian en Táchira encapuchados llegaron en taxis de la Misión Transporte con armas a atacar manifestación pic.twitter.com/6jgt5PcY70
— Leonardo León (@leoperiodista) April 8, 2017
1. En Táchira dos taxis de "la misión transporte", sin placas, transportan a pistoleros que disparan contra manifestantes en Av. Carabobo.
— César Pérez Vivas (@CesarPerezVivas) April 8, 2017
Encapuchados armados apuntan con armas a gente concentrada en la Av Carabobo. Se desplazan en un taxi de los nuevos #Tachira
— Lorena Evelyn Arráiz (@lorearraiz) April 8, 2017
People resisted their way into Carabobo avenue only to find more repression by Politachira and the attack of colectivos, this went through the day.
Batalla campal en San Cristóba esta madrugada: bombas lacrimogenas, tanquetas, vehículos afectados, heridos de perdigones #Táchira
— Lorena Evelyn Arráiz (@lorearraiz) April 9, 2017
— Diario de Los Andes (@diariodlosandes) April 9, 2017
In light of these events, a call is being made in social media to regather around Daniel Tinoco square.
We found no reports of protesters being held by police at the moment.
There were protests in other cities, but they were smaller and dispersed quickly without the need for repression. The street agenda goes on. MUD leaders called for mass prayers in the country’s churches today, and renewed protests are expected for Monday and throughout the Holy Week.
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