Not satisfied with choking the Palmeros de Chacao with tear gas last week, this Wednesday, chavistas assaulted another religious tradition in Caracas: the mass for the Nazareno de San Pablo. They attacked Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino inside the Basílica of Santa Teresa and shouted pro-government chants, oblivious of this ritual’s significance for worshippers. Scarcely an hour earlier, cardinal Urosa and UCAB rector Francisco José Virtuoso read a statement condemning violence and repression in the country, and demanding respect for the right to protest.
It’s not a coincidence that the cardinal was attacked by chavista paramilitary groups —colectivos— barely an hour after he’d denounced them. People in San Cristóbal, Táchira state, woke up to find several temples defaced with insults and threats sprayed on the walls against the priests, signed by PSUV.
Chavismo loves to quote Óscar Arnulfo Romero, the archbishop from El Salvador who was assassinated for defending the right to freedom.
A general on Twitter
Defense minister Vladimir Padrino López decorated National Guard officers for operating “in compliance with the Constitution and Human Rights” during recent opposition marches. He uploaded a video on his Twitter account where he claims: “It isn’t repression when the State, through the police and the GNB, attempts to preserve the lives of all demonstrators, once the first boundary of violence is breached. People have the right to participate, but we must also guarantee clear roads and highways, free transit, all of these rights that have been violated under the complicit gaze of political parties and irresponsible politicians, for that’s what they are…”.
Later, he claimed that there was a national and international campaign in which the Armed Forces are presented “as gorillas,” cautioning that “when demonstrations turn to riots, the right to protest is lost.” An aside: for some reason, despide the riots and lootings breaking out these last couple of nights, the PNB and the GNB have deployed less than a tenth of the force they’ve exhibited in daylight protests.
Love in Stones
Communes minister Aristóbulo Istúriz denied that Nicolás was attacked in San Félix, saying that there wasn’t violence but love, as if this was an electoral campaign: “When that mass of countrymen saw that the event was concluding, they jumped ahead, breaching Casa Militar’s security ring (…) They bypassed all of us and gave Maduro all kinds of things,” he was saying when his chair fell to the floor, but he didn’t fall, claiming that he caught a baseball with a message, because “people use anything, a mango, a tomato” to write to the president. There’s an important difference between this story and the order given to communal councils to stop and prevent any guarimbas in their area. Istúriz claimed that “they’re not guarimberos, they’re terrorists; we have to treat them as terrorists,” so he commanded discipline and firmness, a strong hand and control. Bad, really bad.
The Ministry of Interior and Justice used Twitter to issue their conclusions about throwing tear gas bombs out from helicopters. The arguments dismissing the action are insufficient, after the videos, the pictures, and the Ombudsman’s admission. According to Reverol, reports of tear gas canisters thrown from helicopters are fabricated by the opposition to misinform and destabilize. But also today, governor Francisco Ameliach said that the student Daniel Queliz was shot dead with a weapon assigned to a Carabobo police officer. 19-year old Queliz is one more person killed during protests, in a group that includes Jairo Ortiz (19), Miguel Ángel Colmenares (36) and Brayan Principal (14), as well as Mrs. Ricarda González (87) who choked to death in Bello Monte.
Six out of the eight people arrested this Tuesday for the San Félix incident have been released, according to NGO Foro Penal. In a week of protests, 12 people have been wounded by firearms, hundreds have been injured while protesting (with bruises, burns, fractures and pellet wounds) and so far, Human Rights NGOs report 364 arrests, the balance of a brutal repression against citizens that demand democracy. Sadness is worse in the knowledge that those killed were young. They only knew this disgraceful government.
This Wednesday, Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai offered an emotional speech in Canada’s House of Commons and included Venezuela among the countries whose citizens have been forced to flee because of violence. During the Latin American Summit on Political Marketing and Governance, OAS head Luis Almagro remarked that the institution can’t be used to silence civil society and it can’t remain neutral before events in member countries, denouncing repression in Venezuela and emphasizing that it’s “vile and cowardly to order authorities to fire upon demonstrators.” He also condemned attacks against the Venezuelan Catholic Church and said that holding political prisoners was petty and repulsive. He criticized those who remain silent: “Those who remain silent about Venezuela’s dead are accomplices, and those who encourage it are co-authors.”
What about Nicolás?
Among the co-authors, we count Bolivian president Evo Morales, who blamed Luis Almagro on Twitter for violence in Venezuela, a potential foreign intervention that nobody has proposed and for encouraging “shock groups that seek a coup d’État.” Iranian Foreign minister Bahram Qasemi also issued a statement saying that his country “strongly opposes any kind of foreign interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs.” With that couple of notorious supporters, Nicolás arrived to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, to remind the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States of how generous Petrocaribe has been with their nations.
Meanwhile, yesterday, PDVSA serviced $2 billion in debt and managed to fulfill OPEC’s output limit, closing March with 1,972,000 oil barrels. Also, a dozen American tankers are en route to our coasts to deliver fuel that PDVSA purchased in the open market to compensate for their refineries’ failing output. So, how is Nicolás supposed to pay for those loyal Caribbean votes at the OAS?
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“El Padre condena la violencia, sabe por experiencia que no es la solución. Les habla de amor y de justicia, de Dios va la noticia, vibrando en su sermón; pero suenan las campanas, un, dos, tres…”