By Lucas Koerner, Venezuela Analysis, Tuesday, May 23, 2017
CARACAS – Six more people were killed in Venezuela on Monday, May 22 amid nationwide opposition attacks on public institutions and government personnel.
The deaths occurred under unclear circumstances in the southwestern state of Barinas during anti-government protests on Monday. The Venezuelan Attorney General’s office (MP) has dispatched state district attorneys to investigate the deaths of Yoman Alí Bervecia Cabeza (19), Elvis Adonis Montilla Perez, Alfredo Carrizales, Miguel Bravo (25), and Freiber Perez Vielma (21).
According to the MP office, Bervecia, “was in the [Jose Antonio Paez] sector of Barinas city, where a protest was underway, when he was shot.” He was subsequently rushed to the Los Pozones emergency room without vital signs.
Montilla was likewise shot in the chest “in the vicinity of the Palma de Oro residential complex,” the MP has stated. The national newspaper El Universal has reported that the death occurred close to barricades made of large concrete tubes erected by protesters near the Palma de Oro and Santa Clara residential complexes. Police arrived on the scene early, using tear gas to disperse the protests and open the way for vehicles to pass.
In the case of Carrizales, the MP indicated that he was in the Andres Eloy Blanco neighborhood, “where a demonstration was taking place, when he was shot in the left intercostal.” El Universal has suggested Carrizales may have been part of a looting on Cedeño street, but the account is unconfirmed.
On Tuesday morning, the MP announced it would investigate the death of Bravo “during a protest that took place last night in Socopo”. Opposition Popular Will party legislator Freddy Superlano has alleged that the youth “received a gunshot wound in the chest from the Barinas state police”, though the politician presented no evidence to support the claim.
Likewise, the MP indicated it will be opening inquiries into the death of Vielma, who died Tuesday of wounds suffered the night before. According to the Public Prosecution, the youth was shot in the back in El Corozo where a demonstration was in progress.
It remains uncertain whether the five men killed were bystanders or active participants in the protests. Nonetheless, opposition spokespeople and the majority of private media have attributed the bulk of the homicides to government “repression” in spite of the little available information regarding causes of death.
A sixth man, Jhon Alberto Quintero, was fatally shot in the head in Guanape barrio on Monday. According to El Nacional’s Barinas correspondent, Yonny Camacho, it is unclear whether Quintero was participating in a looting or was killed in a botched robbery.
Despite the competing on-the-ground accounts, opposition National Assembly Deputy for Petare Miguel Pizarro has blamed the death on “repression” by state security forces. The MP has yet to issue an official statement regarding the murder of Quintero.
The six deaths in Barinas occurred amid a wave of opposition violence targeting public institutions and private property across the state.
In the hours of the morning of May 22, anti-government protesters set fire to the state headquarters of the United Venezuelan Socialist Party (PSUV). The party members present in the building were able to evacuate and successfully extinguish the blaze before it engulfed the entire structure.
According to the local Ciudad Barinas newspaper, demonstrators also launched attacks on the Barinas town hall, the Executive Secretariat of Education building, as well as the Autonomous Institute of Housing and Barrio Equipment for Barinas state, which saw its offices looted and several of its vehicles torched.
At approximately 11am, a mob reportedly set the Barinas state police headquarters on fire and stole four vehicles. State law enforcement have confirmed that a total of six police stations have been ransacked across the state, while the 53rd command post of the National Guard in Barinas was likewise besieged by protesters.
Later in the afternoon, the state offices of the National Electoral Council (CNE) was attacked with Molotov bombs in an incident that was later denounced by the institution’s top officials in Caracas.
“Our solidarity with the CNE workers of Barinas state, whose offices were ransacked and burnt by violent groups,” declared CNE Dean Tania D’ Amelio via Twitter.
Vice-President El Aissami has also reported attacks on the state offices of the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission and the Ribas Mission as well as the destruction of a medical warehouse belonging to the network of government-run free health clinics known as Barrio Adentro.
Meanwhile, local Chamber of Commerce President Edgar Reyes has confirmed that two retail outlets, a tire depot, and several hotels were the object of looting.
In total, Barinas Governor Zenaida Gallardo indicated that over 30 public institutions had been attacked and 100 businesses robbed throughout the state.
Monday’s violence extended to other parts of the country.
In Bolivar, a FERROMINERA state mining company worker was reportedly kidnapped by anti-government demonstrators, who accused the man of being an “infiltrator” on account of his uniform. “FERROMINERA in Bolivar only produces infiltrators in the people’s struggle against the dictatorship. The resistance captured and expelled [him] as such,” warned opposition party Bandera Roja in a tweet.
Images on social media show the technician, Luis Eduardo Mejias Perroni, half naked surrounded by protesters.
The kidnapping was immediately denounced by mine worker union leader Roger Salazar who insisted that Mejias was a telecommunications manager and demanded the man be released. Mejias was reportedly liberated thanks to the action of state security forces.
In Puerto Ordaz, two men have been arrested in connection with the destruction of over 50 buses belonging to the public TransBolivar system early Monday morning, amounting to approximately US $11 million in losses.
In Miranda state, two government health clinics were attacked, with one being partially destroyed, confirmed El Aissami. Protesters also reportedly set fire to a PDVSA educational center, two buses filled with passengers, and an ambulance. Five people were arrested for the attacks against the buses and the ambulance.
Elsewhere in Miranda, authorities arrested 16 suspects they claim form part of violent anti-government militant groups in the area. They also decommissioned three trucks worth of Molotov bombs as well as a factory where demonstrators produced metal shields for combat with authorities.
Meanwhile in Caracas, opposition supporters once again attempted to reach western Caracas in an unauthorized march to the Health Ministry, provoking renewed clashes with state security personnel along the Francisco Fajardo Highway and Liberator Avenue.
Likewise in the capital, authorities seized approximately US$250,000 in equipment to be presumably used in anti-government protests. Stored in an apartment in Sabana Grande, the cache included gas masks, helmets, min-rockets, and military uniforms. Three people were detained in the raid.
The latest round of violence comes as opposition protests bent on ousting the Maduro government enter their eighth week. Sixty-one people have died and nearly a thousand have been injured in the violence to date.
The opposition has vowed to remain in the streets until all of its demands are fulfilled, including bringing forward presidential elections slated for 2018.
Related news report:
Hugo Chavez’s childhood home in Barinas burned by protesters, by Fabiola Sanchez and Hannah Dreier, Associated Press, May 22, 2017
Hunger and food shortages in Venezuela?
[The neo-conservative Washington Post published an article on May 22, 2017 arguing that Venezuela is suffering widespread hunger and malnutrition due to food shortages caused by the country’s failed experiments in improving national food production. The article was reprinted two days later in Canada’s largest daily newspaper, the Toronto Star.
The government of Venezuela under President Hugo Chavez inherited from its predecessors extensive dependence on food imports, paid in the scheme of things by the country’s vast oil wealth. Here is a compilation of articles examing the claims of food failure in Venezuela by the Chavez-led ‘Bolivarian Revolution’, continuing today under his successor President Nicolas Maduro. Hugo Chavez died of cancer on March 5, 2013.]
Venezuela’s paradox: People are hungry, but farmers can’t feed them, Washington Post, May 22, 2017
Blaming socialism, U.S. media distorts Venezuela’s food crisis, Telesur, March 3rd 2017
Behind the food lines in Venezuela, Telesur, May 16, 2016
Special Report: Hunger in Venezuela? A Look Beyond the Spin, by Christina Schiavoni & William Camacaro, Food First, July 11, 2016 (re-published in Venezuela Analysis, July 14, 2016)
The OAS and the crisis in Venezuela: Luis Almagro and his labyrinth, by Patricio Zamorano, guest scholar at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, published by COHA on April 28, 2017
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