Photo: El Pitazo retrieved
At 3:00 a.m. today, a squad of National Guard (GNB) officers sent out a video from a facility in Cotiza, in Northwestern Caracas, against Nicolás Maduro’s government. They asked for the people’s support, saying they don’t recognize Maduro’s authority, and turned themselves in to the Military Prosecutor’s Office at 8:00 a.m. The incident sparked a demonstration in the area, with pot-banging in the neighborhood and marches in nearby streets.
Situación en directo desde Cotiza https://t.co/GrRwAnveY2
— Luz Mely Reyes (@LuzMelyReyes) January 21, 2019
GNB and Anti-kidnapping Command (CONAS) officers were dispatched to contain the unrest with tear-gas and rubber pellets. Paramilitary armed groups also joined the repression.
#21Ene Una vez más se constata la presencia de grupos paramilitares pro gobierno en el control de las protestas. Actúan en coordinación con las policías y militares. Hoy han contribuido a reprimir protesta en #Cotiza
— PROVEA (@_Provea) January 21, 2019
Mid-morning, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) issued a ruling nullifying the installation of all Boards of the National Assembly after the 2016 period.
After noon, AN Speaker Juan Guaidó spoke in support of the uprising and protests, saying that Parliament doesn’t seek to divide the Armed Forces, but the opposite. He also disregarded the TSJ ruling.
What’s new here?
While the insurrection in Cotiza was small and easily quelled, it’s the first incident we’ve seen since the assault on Fort Paramacay in 2017, and it caused ripples across social media, igniting popular demonstrations scarcely two days before the national mobilization called for January 23.
As for the Supreme Tribunal, although they have issued many rulings against Parliament (all based on the alleged contempt that had it neutered in 2016) this is the first time they target the AN’s Board specifically, affecting its entire exercise since installation, in a sort of retroactive judicial coup.
Whether the regime has the capacity to enforce this ruling or seeks to act more openly against Guaidó and the rest of the AN, remains to be seen as the week progresses.
What does it mean?
What stood out today is how regular people in the neighborhood went out to join demonstrations and clashes against state security forces, in support of disgruntled security officers should they refuse to obey orders and stand against the regime.
The impact of this cannot be overstated.
While protests have never truly ceased in Venezuela, most now focus on demanding basics such as food, medicine and water, not on calls for political change. It’s rare, as well, for political protests to hit working class “barrios.” In Cotiza we saw, on a small scale, elements of the three things the regime fears most: military rebellion, political protest and protests in working class areas.
This bolsters the call for January 23 and also provides a solid footing for the AN’s plan to approve an Amnesty Law. Moreover, the TSJ’s actions will likely inflame international outrage against the government and increase Maduro’s isolation in his most vulnerable moment, further diminishing his already crippled chances to extract reassurances from the European Union, the United States and the United Nations.