The country is in such a mess that there are doubts about the official death toll for Monday. Most outlets talk about two confirmed casualties, while Avenida San Martín, on the West side of Caracas, was literally under fire. The current death toll for the protests rose to 31. Arrests, which numbered 1,365 through Sunday, have now swelled with dozens more. It’s been an episode marked by deinstitutionalization and repression, both allowed by None-budsman Tarek William Saab, discriminating murders by political affiliation and suggesting submission as the protesters’ best shot at facing dictatorship.
Why more deaths?
Runrun.es reported that at least 18 people were killed in El Valle on Thursday the 20th, in murky circumstances. A story that nine people died electrocuted out of the 11 initial circulated widely, but is highly unlikely according to experts. The truth is that it’s been four days and still no authority has bothered to offer an official account of the events on Calle Cajigal; they’ve simply repeated chavismo’s standard propaganda that any protesting dissident is a terrorist.
That propaganda line inspired the Division Against Organized Crime, an elite corps within the National Police that has no authority on public order and protest management, to repress a group of citizens gathering in La California seeking to join the opposition’s Plantón (sit-in) on Monday morning. The PNB discarded dissuasion and jumped straight to violence, and their questionable involvement was made even worse by the fact that citizens were committing no crimes. Two people were seriously injured and four were arrested, maybe for the crime of bleeding after being shot by pellets.
The remaining balance
Although Barinas state lawmaker Maribel Guédez reported that paramilitary groups murdered three people during protests in Barinitas, only Renzo Rodríguez (54) appears on official records, shot in the chest as two more people were wounded. In Mérida city, Jesús Sulbarán, a Mérida Governor’s Office employee, was killed by a shot in the neck, while six other people were wounded during the same incident. Governor Alexis Ramírez claimed on VTV that: “There were snipers on the buildings in Mérida,” while mayor Carlos García alleged that paramilitary groups responsible for violence were wearing Primero Justicia shirts. In any case, the Prosecutor’s Office has already assigned prosecutors to investigate these events. The opposition sit-in was repressed in at least 11 of the cities where it was held.
On Sunday, Tarek William Saab ratified his approval for solitary confinement as a valid punishment for prisoners. Each new message he dedicated to the “internal sanction” against Leopoldo López was worse than the last, confirming that Human Rights are another discretionary matter for chavismo.
Yesterday he called for peace despite also being responsible for this recent wave of protests, not only because he validated a denounced coup d’État, but because he also violated legal protocols and decided on behalf of the Moral Republican Council he presides, as if it was up to him only. His perspective is that “those who called for these protests seem eager to bring back 2014.” He described those protests as “terrorist and sinister,” as if people died because of demonstrations themselves, rather than repression. Tarek even made a rhetorical question: “What do they want? Do they want Venezuela to turn into a graveyard?”; but it already is —he’d know that if he checked on Prosecutor’s Office records.
What do they want?
National Assembly Speaker Julio Borges explained yesterday that if Nicolás wants elections, all he needs is to call for them. “He’s the only one preventing them. We must have guarantees of free elections, without disqualifications, without political prisoners and under international monitoring. The only call we have made is for general elections, even at the OAS, and we’re willing to leave our posts in order to choose a new National Assembly if necessary.” Any questions?
Elections (but for PSUV, unopposed)
Diosdado Cabello said hours later that there won’t be general elections, explaining that the National Electoral Council is an autonomous power. Minutes earlier, he had said PSUV is ready to go to elections, and that political parties haven’t completed the re-registration process.
“We’ll have to go to elections on our own because they don’t have political parties. There’s not a single one (…) they’re not ready to go to elections.” Despite this, he called the opposition leadership “arrogant and proud” and remarked that the only way the opposition can bring about change “is through a coup d’État.” It’s not a coincidence that he talked for a while about social media and the government’s poor control over them. The enemy of chavismo is liberty, from free will to emojis.
Today, the National Assembly will discuss the State’s policy of arming paramilitaries to commit political crimes alongside the Armed Forces, as well as cases of direct persecution and intimidation against Parliament and its members. The Agenda also includes the public call for the creation of the Judicial Nominations Committee. Lawmaker Miguel Pizarro, speaking on behalf of MUD, called for a march on Wednesday, April 26th to Libertador Municipality, with the same rallying spots as on April 19th. The destination will be announced that very day to “prevent them from organizing repression,” said the lawmaker, adding that “the AN will hold session on the street with the people next Thursday.”
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said this Monday that Venezuela is at risk of a food crisis, right as Cendas reveals that the Food Basket price for March rose to Bs.772,614.30 (19 minimum wages,) an increase of Bs.106,932.18 compared to February, and a rise of 441% between March 2016 and March 2017. Finally the FAO understands the opacity of official figures (which they’ve used to honor the government for two years in a row) and assumes severe malnutrition as a State issue.