Nicolás danced in cadena, proud of imposing his constituyente while security forces ambushed us in the Francisco Fajardo highway, leaving three wounded lawmakers and forcing us to retreat, while many people, including photographers and journalists, were caught between tear gas and rubber bullets shot at close range. (At least 11 wounded, according to NGO Espacio Público)
— PROVEA (@_Provea) May 3, 2017
A murder in particular caused general commotion. Another teenager who never knew anything but chavismo: Armando Cañizales, 17, had recently graduated from high school; he practiced judo and played the viola in the José Francisco del Castillo orchestra. Armando lived in Bello Monte and was going to study Medicine like his mom, but he was shot through the neck as he stood near the bridge where Las Mercedes connects with the highway and unfortunately, he didn’t make it.
Nicolás was cynical enough as to say: “Yes to votes, no to bullets,” even as security forces were cracking down hard on us, leaving 167 people wounded, most of them with trauma, like the boy who was run down by a GNB armored vehicle as it hit a group of protesters in Altamira, and many others who suffered burns and asphyxia. Many were also robbed, beaten and at least 60 were illegally arrested. Green Cross volunteers were also attacked yesterday. The grim official recount of our dead during protests now increases to 31.
After five months of questionable excuses to avoid complying with the Constitution and hold gubernatorial elections, it took the National Electoral Council scarcely two days to accept the constituyente imposed by Nicolás, “to get even after the defeat” of the 2015 parliamentary elections, said Nicolás: “They (the opposition) won a circumstantial majority, I always said it. Now, with the constituent process, we have the opportunity to return to the track of popular bolivarian chavista victory,” adding that he trusts the people and is confident about victory, that they’re defeating the fascist coup d’état and that he was handing power over to the people “for them to decide the country’s fate,” choosing between war or peace, guarimba or constituyente, violence or constituyente, ratifying that constituent representatives will be chosen by sectoral groups. CNE chief Tibisay Lucena said that Venezuela’s living through a crucial moment in its political history and that the start of its constituent history is an opportunity to find solutions to hardships.
General Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal. She condemned State violence against opposition protesters, criticized our rampant inflation and praised the Constitution Nicolás wants to scrap, calling it unbeatable because it was the Constitution of el finado, saying that she felt captivated by him. “We can’t demand citizens to behave peacefully and lawfully if the State makes decisions that violate the law,” said Ortega Díaz. She also pointed out the irregularities in due process, especially in cases where courts rule against the Prosecutor’s Office, when they refuse to release prisoners despite the requests of prosecutors and, of course, the use of military tribunals for civilian cases. According to the General Prosecutor: “It’s time to reach an agreement among ourselves,” it’s time to dialogue and negotiate, to “reach decisions for the good of the country.” For what we’ve seen so far from this government, that’s not going to be an option.
Interior minister Néstor Reverol gave his version about Armando Cañizales’ murder, saying that the boy was killed by a gunshot through the neck. During a press conference in which he offered the balance of the barbarity he coordinates, he blamed National Assembly Speaker Julio Borges for all recent events, claiming that his call to rebel against a coup d’état, caused violence to spread. His security forces are a priority for Reverol, so he dedicated a lot more time to them than to robbed, wounded, arrested or murdered citizens. He pointed out that the right to protest isn’t absolute, but restricted instead, and said that article 357 of the Criminal Code establishes eight years in prison for those who block roads: “We ratify our commitment with our president to keep building the necessary actions to guarantee peace, democratic authority and Venezuelan laws,” said the impartial official.
They spoke for the opposition yesterday and called for new street protests for today, in each autonomous university in the country starting 8:00 a.m. They plan to hold student assemblies and to take to the streets. Daniel Ascanio, head of the Federation of Student Centers of the Simón Bolívar University, said: “Whether we must march to Miraflores or to the Ombudsman’s Office, Venezuela protests to demand democracy and equality. Mr. Maduro, you can have bullets and pellets, but we have the conviction of an entire country,” and he also condemned Nicolás’ statements regarding the constituent assembly in which he claimed that students approve of that mechanism: “We don’t support your constituent process (…) what you’re proposing is a huge fraud (…) changing the Constitution and remaking it to suit your desires is another attempt at clinging to power (…) ¡Váyase al carajo!”
The OAS Foreign ministers are set to meet on May 21st or 22nd to establish a position about the crisis in Venezuela. Peruvian Foreign minister Ricardo Luna explained on Wednesday that, in his view, the situation gets worse and the constituent assembly seeks to disarm the opposition: “It’s a change of rules that everyone knows is illegal, authoritarian, a kind of coup within a coup,” he said. His counterpart María Ángela Holguín announced that Colombia doesn’t agree with Nicolás’ constituyente, because the solution is to hold elections, restore the Assembly’s authority and release all political prisoners. Lastly, the Canadian Embassy was one of the first to react to Wednesday’s cruel repression, warning the government about repressing peaceful protests as it violates human rights and instigates violence, and that this practice won’t solve the country’s terrible crisis.
The cherry on top
Last night, journalist Leopoldo Castillo (@elcitizen) tweeted that political leader and prisoner Leopoldo López had been taken to the Hospital Militar “without vital signs”.
Almost two hours went by before his wife, Lilian Tintori, said on Twitter that she was en route to the hospital, only to be denied that López had been taken there, so she went to Ramo Verde military prison. Once there, she shouted until she confirmed that her husband was alive and well. Meanwhile, social media in Venezuela went haywire with theories and rumors. Diosdado Cabello -López’s jailer- disregarding the situation, presented a “proof of life” without a single element to link the video with the date.
It was a strange and profoundly unnerving situation for a country already ripe with commotion.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.