Barquisimeto Under Attack

My hometown is making headlines for the worst reasons.

In the past 24 hours, four people have lost their lives in Barquisimeto in the context of protests, according to this written statement of the Prosecutor General’s office: Rubén Morillo, Fernando Rojas, José Gregorio Mendoza Durán and Ramsés Enrique Martínez. This brings the Barquisimeto death toll to five in one week.

Even if repression was already harsh in Lara state, it had never reached a peak like it has in the past days.

Just as in Maracay recently and Barinas before it, Barquisimeto went through a situation that can only be described as chaotic, spurred by intensified protests after the death of Roberto Duran earlier this week, and by strong repression in the area known as “El Cardenalito”.

But few expected that things could actually turn for the worse between Thursday and Friday: Reports of looting in the Western part of town started to appear. Both the mayor of Barquisimeto Alfredo Ramos and the Governor of Lara Henri Falcon took to the social networks to alert the population.

 

At the same time, Internet went out across the entire State for several hours on Friday morning. Outages were already occurring over the week in different parts of the country.

I walked the streets on Friday morning and hardly any businesses and offices were opened then.

Then, human rights NGO Movimiento Vinotinto reported armed groups moving around in vehicles without license plates and causing havoc in several parts of Barquisimeto, including the private clinic Acosta Ortiz downtown (you can see footage of their intrusion above).

Late on Friday, another local NGO Funpaz published a report of the overall situation up to then, which left two dead, others injured and 25 detained in both Barquisimeto and Cabudare that day.

Interior Minister Nestor Reverol was in Lara State at the time of the incidents and met with military heads and Luis Reyes Reyes, the Maduro-appointed parallel governor of the State. Lara State Police (PoliLara) was already intervened by the central government last month.

On Saturday, Mayor Alfredo Ramos led a peaceful protest to the local Prosecutor General’s office. He denounced that Iribarren councilman Jesus Superlano (PPT) was rallying “the revolutionaries” on WhatsApp to “confront fascism.” Superlano is one of the main instigators behind the recent attempt to oust Ramos from his elected post.

In the meantime, Governor Henri Falcon held a press conference. No local media outlet carried it live, but at least it can be found online below. He blamed Superlano and accused CorpoLara (the parallel chavista governorship) of using its headquarters to “protect paramilitary groups”.

During the day, many local supermarkets and food stores were filled with customers, as military presence was more notorious on the streets, especially near the residence of Mayor Ramos. He tweeted a video of the large convoy of military and police vehicles around his house:

Today, Sunday, things have been calmer. Local human rights groups are expected to offer a press conference on Tuesday morning, in which they could give more details of what really happened during this confusing and tragic weekend.

Here, there is just no such thing as finding out though evening news.

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