Photo: Panam Post retrieved.

Hours after the attack, nobody remembers La Tata, alias of the alleged instigator. Maduro is directly blamed, inside Venezuela… and abroad.

Last Thursday, October 25, when receiving the Herzog award in Sao Paulo for their “Explorando el Arco Minero del Orinoco” investigation, InfoAmazonia journalists dedicated the award to Venezuelan photojournalist Wilmer González, from Correo del Caroní.

González was the go-to person for international media visiting Bolívar. They hired him as a photographer and driver: in fact, the award-winning investigation was the product of an alliance between Correo del Caroní and InfoAmazonia, supported by the Pulitzer Center.

But last March, Wilmer González went missing. His family says he went to the Piacoa mines, in Delta Amacuro, to make some money. He wasn’t heard from again. His body hasn’t been found and his death hasn’t been confirmed. Wilmer González is currently missing.

Instead, there are no doubts about journalist Lucía Seoane. She was murdered in April, 2016, when she covered the Tumeremo massacre, where organized crime killed 28 miners. Seoane was the daughter of the head of Radio Minera 97.7 FM, where she had a talk show. After killing her, her executioners tried to set fire to the room, to erase the evidence.

In the town of Las Claritas, Bolívar, the ELN ordered people to leave the area in 15 days, because they were going to take that territory. We can imagine the massacre they already planned and the regime looks the other way.

Américo De Grazia, National Assembly lawmaker for Bolívar, decried the journalist’s murder and mentioned several gangs operating in the area. Two years later, on October 24, 2018, De Grazia wrote on his Twitter account what he’d already said at the National Assembly: “The ELN wants to get its hands on drug trafficking through the Atlantic Ocean, that’s the cause for the massacre at San Juan de las Galdonas (Sucre). They already operate with gold in Tumeremo, with diamonds in San Vicente de Paul and with coltan in Parguaza (Bolívar). The ELN currently controls the entire coltan production in Venezuela, with the authorities’ indulgence. There are testimonies, there’s evidence, and part of the Armed Forces are involved. In the town of Las Claritas, Bolívar, the ELN ordered people to leave the area in 15 days, because they were going to take that territory. We can imagine the massacre they already planned and the regime looks the other way. The guerrilla is operating at least since November, 2017, in Bolívar’s mining areas: the ELN’s military task is to cover the government at the border. What’s the Colombian guerrilla doing in that mining territory? It doesn’t border with Colombia. It borders with the Venezuelan Esequibo, which is currently in control of the Republic of Guyana.”

That same day, October 24, opposition leader María Corina Machado and her team were attacked upon arrival in Upata, Bolívar. They were punched, shoved and robbed in plain view of the entire world, literally. Former lawmaker Machado is characterized not just by her liberal speech, her persistence in confronting the regime and her physical daring, but also by the efficiency of her communications, made with thoroughness and professionalism. Anyone who knows her political style knows that her public activities are covered by her own team and disseminated both in Venezuela and abroad. Whoever attacked her, was aware that the incident would have immediate repercussions, even in international spheres with which the government is attempting to set up a dialogue.

This leads us to think that, although the people who received her with violence are clearly government supporters, they aren’t aligned with Nicolás Maduro, who just released student Lorent Saleh after years of tortuous political imprisonment. Soon after the attack, Vente Venezuela issued a statement blaming it on Piar municipality mayor Yulisbeth García. Genaro Mosqueda, former executive secretary of the opposition party coalition (MUD) in Piar, said that the attackers “threw at least 200 boxes of eggs, stones, bottles, sticks and also used gunfire,” and he directly accused the PSUV of being responsible for the incident. Meanwhile, leader Andrés Velásquez said on Twitter that: “A group of mototaxistas were instructed to prepare the attack against @MariaCorinaYa in Upata. The rumor in town is that they held meetings in Polipiar headquarters, where they were allegedly offered two cans of motorcycle oil per participant.”

“What are we waiting for?” said Spanish politician Beatriz Becerra, “for her to be thrown off a balcony?”

But the world points its finger at unpopular Maduro. Colombian Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez said that “anything that happens to María Corina Machado is responsibility of dictator Maduro.” Former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana had already said that an attack against Machado was being planned: “There’s a Cuban henchman nicknamed Ulises, who is currently in SEBIN, specifically in La Tumba, and he has the mission of assaulting María Corina Machado and making it look like an accident, simply because she’s an obstacle in the path of former Spanish President Rodríguez Zapatero.”

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas immediately issued a statement on Twitter: “We’re profoundly shocked regarding the attack against María Corina Machado and other officials during an event today in Bolívar State. Violence is never the solution. Ideas are always stronger than brute force.”

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also wasted no time to condemn “the real threat of the Maduro regime against María Corina Machado’s life.”

“What are we waiting for?” said Spanish politician Beatriz Becerra, “for her to be thrown off a balcony?”

The episode, which was condemned by the entire Venezuelan political spectrum, seems to have been the work of the various mafias operating in Bolívar. Machado said, still in Upata, that “what’s currently happening in Venezuela is how mafias took over the Venezuelan State. It’s not that a group of mafias took over the territory, it’s that today, the State is the mafia.” She also thrashed the Armed Forces, telling them that, since national sovereignty “has been violated, the space for contemplation and waiting is over. Either you go down with the tyranny or you save yourselves with Venezuela.”

The result of this incident is summed up in a message by Tuto Quiroga, former President and former presidential candidate of Bolivia, who said that María Corina Machado is a “hero of freedom,” also cautioning Maduro: “As we get closer to 10J, the international community will redouble its pressure and sanctions.”

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