A Day With Gunshots

Venezuelans protested in every state on May 1st. Jurubith Rausseo was injured protesting in Altamira and died yesterday. She was the 55th protester who has died in 2019. Colectivos were in charge of repression. Several journalists were injured while covering the protests.

Photo: Román Camacho

This Wednesday, May 1st, Venezuelans took to the streets again. Between my house and the Chiquinquirá church, I experienced two robbery attempts. In the first, the criminal said that “any escuálido who wants to go through here has to pay.” Rather fascist, I say, but in hyperinflation, there’s no money to pay. “Here, give me what you have,” said my second assailant, and I took off my blue hat so he could see my post-chemo hair, and asked him if he had time for my story about how it’s like to live with breast cancer in Venezuela. Both attempts took place so close to the National Police (PNB) contingents that repressed us later, that I thought they were worth highlighting: criminals do what they want while citizens are repressed for protesting.

They murdered Jurubith

Last night, Jurubith Rausseo (27) was confirmed dead as she underwent surgery for a bullet wound she took in the head while protesting in Altamira. She left two orphan children.

Yesterday’s repression was overwhelming, a revenge against citizens, carried out by the National Guard, the PNB and the paramilitaries known as colectivos. According to military expert Rocío San Miguel, Nicolás personally led these operations, which started early in several cities, preventing even the possibility of rallies.

They repressed citizens, attacked press workers; assailed citizens who were  inside churches and residential buildings; they used firearms, rubber pellets and tear gas. There were arbitrary detentions, they blocked the internet, but also, national TV and radio ignored both the protest and the repression, establishing disinformation as a norm. Jubirith was the 55th protester murdered by the regime thus far in 2019.

Repression balance

Lawmaker Manuela Bolívar denounced the brutal repression by regime security bodies, reporting 397 protest points all over the country. At 10:00 p.m., the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict reported repression in 14 states, with 130 people wounded across the country by bullets, pellets and tear gas.

Additionally, there were power cuts in 13 states. The National Union of Press Workers reported ten workers were attacked while covering yesterday’s protests, with five journalists wounded with pellets. At night, Lilian Tintori shared a video about her house raided and robbed by agents of the State Secret Police (SEBIN).

Record of absurdity

Journalist Román Camacho managed to record a video showing how PNB officers acted like criminals and stole a motorcycle attacking the driver and then shooting him with pellets.

The eight officers who confronted alleged colectivos this Tuesday in Chacao where ordered by their superior at the Miranda Police to hand over their weapons. They will also have to face an investigation carried out by the Police Action Control Inspectorate. Tachira State lawmaker Franklyn Duarte denounced with a video how two GNB rolled over an elderly lady with their motorcycles and then fired against her relatives when they complained.

Let’s talk human rights

PROVEA said that the appointment of Gustavo González López again as SEBIN director seriously jeopardizes human rights in the country, due to his “extensive history of violations in OLP operations and his responsibility for the death of councilman Fernando Albán.”

González López returns after the removal and arrest of Manuel Cristofer Figuera, who allegedly ordered the release of Leopoldo López and supported the April 30th uprising. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the UN Secretary General, Amnesty International, the Australian government and the International Contact Group created by the European Union expressed their concern for the excessive use of force against protesters in Venezuela. They called for restoring press freedom and the release of all political prisoners.

We won’t back down

Caretaker President Juan Guaidó was in two rallying points in Caracas. Both were repressed before and after his presence. “The only way there can be a coup d’état here is that they arrest me,” said Guaidó and explained that civilian and peaceful rebellion started on Tuesday, with the support of the Armed Forces. He announced gradual strikes as build up for a general strike and restated his call for soldiers to join Operation Freedom, saying that street protests will continue until Venezuela’s freedom is attained. “We won’t let them bring us down to our knees ever again. A smile under dictatorship is rebellion (…) We’ll remain on the streets, strong, purposeful, all over Venezuela. On the path to a general strike proposed by workers themselves. We won’t back down.”

No raise, no substance

For the first time in the chavista era, no wage raise was announced on May 1st. Nicolás, concerned only about himself, didn’t speak about the legitimacy of the extraordinary Official Gazette allegedly published on April 25th; he announced nothing that could improve workers’ living standards. Only noise: defeats, conspiracies, treasons, deceit, crap. He demanded maximum loyalty and called for a national dialogue and action campaign to listen to people’s proposals. He also called PSUV to another campaign, but of self-revision and correction, because “the bolivarian project has stagnated, it has moved backwards.” Lastly, he asked the people for ideas to face the economic “blockade” and claimed that they must keep “defeating intrigue and severely punish treason,” crucial tasks to stop hyperinflation, recover production and attract fresh investment.

U.S. movements

State Secretary Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. government is ready, if necessary, to military intervene in Venezuela, but underscored that the goal is to achieve a peaceful transition in the country. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Pompeo that more aggressive measures in Venezuela would have serious consequences. Elliott Abrams, Special Envoy for Venezuela, said that high ranking regime officials with whom they were negotiating Nicolás’s ouster have turned off their phones, adding that from now on, Nicolás must know that he doesn’t have the support he thought he had.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence was “encouraged” by protests in Venezuela and promised that Washington will continue backing Juan Guaidó until there’s a change in power. Admiral Craig Faller, chief of the U.S. Armed Forces’ Southern Command, disregarded an imminent military intervention in Venezuela and said that a democratic transition “is already underway.”

Other movements

  • The OAS held an extraordinary session to assess Venezuela’s situation.
  • Julio Borges spoke about his meeting with Peter Ptassek, German ambassador in Colombia, and the request for his government to take the lead in Europe and impose more severe sanctions against Nicolás’s clique, their figureheads and the Cuban dictatorship.

  • The Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic called the Venezuelan Army to heed the will of citizens and support the peaceful democratic transition.
  • The Appeals Court of the District of Columbia ruled that only Juan Guaidó can exercise Venezuela’s legal representation in U.S. soil, disregarding the appeal filed by Nicolás Maduro.

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced that he’ll approve $57 million to assist Venezuelan immigrants.

Justice Marisela Godoy said that she left the Supreme Tribunal’s Plenary Chamber because the decision wouldn’t be discussed. Maikel Moreno (mentioned by the U.S. for participating in a plan for transition) was expected to issue a statement, but he didn’t. Reports say that the justices loyal to Nicolás approved the preliminary hearing on merits against National Assembly Vice-President Edgar Zambrano.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.