The children’s game usually differentiates between them, but yesterday, the men in uniform played both roles at leisure. The third sit-in called by the MUD was repressed early on, with raids at 5:30 a.m. in Altamira and El Paraíso, illegal arrests and harassment in almost every protest rallying point. Wherever protesters tried to block the roads, the National Guard and the PNB rained tear-gas on them. What changed? Robberies went off the roof (cellphones, wallets, backpacks, cameras, shoes and even merchandise from street vendors) with the threat that something much worse would happen if they didn’t vacate the area.
Lawmakers Miguel Pizarro and Juan Requesens were beaten by GN –the latter was thrown into a sewer–, while repression dialed up the heat including officers from the Anti-kidnapping Command (CONAS), who openly used firearms against protesters in Chuao, despite the fact that this command’s not meant to maintain public order and that weapons are forbidden for these tasks.
— Alberto Rodríguez (@AlbertoRT51) June 5, 2017
By the way, the bus-burning show in Altamira was a joke.
Against the press
In his dominical show, Nicolás expressed his displeasure for what he believed was what foreign journalists were eager for: being here to see the end of his oh-so-legitimate government, claiming they’d leave seeing the fascist, golpista, terrorists, [insert other adjectives here] right-wing defeated instead.
National Guard and PNB commanders must’ve taken this displeasure as an order to attack and that’s why yesterday, in a new wave of State terrorism, journalists were the preferred targets for robberies and aggressions, those that started with a now-famous phrase by a National Guard in Altamira: “Get lost or we’ll treat you like guarimberos.” The Press Union reported 14 attacks against press workers on Monday and despite the long list of previous attacks, the authorities are yet to answer for the crimes committed by the GN and the PNB, ignoring the protective measure requested by the Prosecutor’s Office for press workers.
Communes Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz presented this dilemma yesterday: “Either this country descends into civil war or this country finds peace,” mirroring Nicolás’ words on Sunday. Interior minister Néstor Reverol tweeted: “Today I met with the relatives of the victims of the wave of terrorism caused by the Venezuelan ultra-right in the last 62 days,” demonstrating how impartial he is on the matter. Additionally, lawmaker Pedro Carreño requested the TSJ to establish a medical board to perform a psychological examination of general prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz, because “this lady can push us all to civil war, she can create the conditions for foreign intervention.” The worst of all was the fake interview between the Villegas brothers, a shameful exercise between two journalists who have contributed to the diminishment of Venezuelan public media and who, without listening to one another, presented the country with a vivid example of the impossibility to reach an understanding when arrogance and irresponsibility are at the top; in any case, the great loser was Ernesto Villegas.
Another show in the CNE
Vice-president Tareck El Aissami submitted the proposal to modify the imposed Constituyente’s electoral rules, accompanied by several PSUV authorities. Jorge Rodríguez claimed that the rules are profoundly fair, popular and complying with electoral techniques, an unnecessary clarification if those features are true. Just to be clear: a proposal to allow us to approve a new Constitution without consulting on whether we want that new Constitution in the first place is a fraud. In fact, CNE authority Luis Emilio Rondón reported that “the Constituyente’s call, timetable and electoral rules haven’t been approved yet” because there was no board meeting in the electoral institution on Monday, pointing out that modifying the electoral rules is yet another unconstitutionality.
Pope Francis will hold a hearing on Thursday with the head council of the Episcopal Conference of Venezuela to discuss the country’s situation, in a meeting requested by the CEV, according to the Vatican’s communiqué. The CEV has rejected the creation of a new Constitution and emphasized the need for holding fair elections, while the Pope has said that the solution to the Venezuelan crisis goes through establishing bridges, respecting the necessary guarantees for democratic cohabitation and negotiating seriously.
The world and Venezuela
The government found time, amidst all this cracking down on protesters, to express concerns for recent disagreements between Arab nations and to call for understanding, so cute. Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina agreed to condemn the physical attacks against opposition lawmakers, repudiating violence and the authorities’ excessive use of force, demanding the government to guarantee the right to peaceful protests. Canada demanded an end to human rights violations. Portugal’s communications secretary José Luis Carneiro reported that his government will provide special grants for Portuguese citizens living in Venezuela. Lastly, U.S. president Donald Trump will meet with Panama’s Juan Carlos Varela on June 19th in the White House, and word is that the collapse of democracy in Venezuela will be on the table.
To the CNE
Juan Requesens said that the next opposition street protest will be on Wednesday, after calling minister Néstor Reverol a murderer and summoning him to appear this Tuesday before the National Assembly. Denouncing yesterday’s brutal repression he said: “After 12 hours of resistance, we managed to drive the Police and the Guard crazy,” adding that “it’s been 66 days of tears, of anecdotes, of blood, of struggle and believe me, nobody’s giving up here.”
Yesterday, the GN and the PNB prevented citizens from protesting. They didn’t just repress demonstrations, they stopped them from happening altogether. It’s tremendously serious that repressive strategy now includes robberies, but now they also include trigger-happy CONAS officers, which is even more serious. With Plan Zamora, security forces are now indistinguishable from colectivos, acting more and more like criminals, making the disgrace we’re already suffering even more absurd. Dictatorship can only offer more abuses, that’s why we must go out and protests, it’s a moment when volume matters a lot. Protesting isn’t a crime, and neither is covering what’s happening in protests. The criminals, the human rights abusers, the State terrorists are with the regime, and we must remind them that crimes against humanity don’t expire.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.