Original art by @modográfico
It was a matter of time: Two protesters in Carabobo state have become the first people charged under the “Constitutional Law Against Hate, for Peaceful Coexistence and Tolerance” passed last November by the Asamblea Nacional Constituyente (ANC), according to NGO Human Rights Watch.
On January 3rd, a street protest took place in Naguanagua and two people were arrested: Ronald Sevilla Guédez (25) and Erika Palacios Alfonzo (41). According to local authorities, they had material for several molotov cocktails.
Justo ahora me encuentro en la sede de la Policía Municipal de Naguanagua, acompañado por el Secretario de Gobierno del Estado Carabobo @Jesusantanderl ;el día de hoy fueron aprehendidos dos ciudadanos los cuales se encontraban generando violencia cerca del c.c free market. pic.twitter.com/OhrRScTLFb
— Gustavo Gutiérrez (@AlcaldGustavo10) January 3, 2018
The following day, both perps were presented in a local court and formally charged. Here’s the account from HRW about the hearing and the alleged crimes they’re accused of:
“During the hearing, a prosecutor charged them with possessing explosive substances, public incitement to commit crimes, obstructing public roads, and “instigating hatred” – a crime provided for in a law adopted in November 2017 by the pro-government Constituent Assembly. The vague and overbroad language of the law prohibits political parties that “promote fascism, hatred, and intolerance,” and imposes prison sentences of up to 20 years on those who “encourage, promote, or incite hatred.”
According to the Penal Forum lawyer who defended Cevilla (sic) and Palacios, their alleged “violence” and criminal instigation of hatred consisted of shouting “Damn Nicolás Maduro!” and verbally insulting the officers. The police report states the officers found seven homemade Molotov cocktails, two bottles with flammable substances, 12 fireworks, and a mortar shell in the area without specifying that they were in the detainees’ possession. Cevilla (sic) and Palacios deny that the explosives were theirs.”
Luis Betancourt, coordinator of the NGO Foro Penal Venezolano in Carabobo, confirmed the use of the Anti-Hate Law and HRW reports that Sevilla and Palacio’s homes were searched by SEBIN.
With the first week of 2018 full of looting reports, the government’s real intent with this law is about to be tested, although it’s worth noticing, they’re also using other methods to both calm the discontent and put the blame in others.
As always, Big Brother is watching.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.