A mayor gunned down in a drive by shooting just meters from his own doorstep. A legislator shot by paramilitaries in plain sight outside a bodega. A solidarity activist butchered in a home invasion. Two police run over by militants in a stolen bus. These are just the latest in a wave of killings in Venezuela. The motives behind most of these killings remain unclear, though it’s hard to not be disturbed by what appears to be a growing wave of political violence gripping the country. In response, Venezuela’s right-wing, the mass media and even most human rights groups are all following a well worn script that seeks to downplay these killings, or at least deflect attention away from the context behind the violence. For example, Human Rights Watch’s latest report on Venezuela is basically just a call for Venezuela’s supreme court to be stacked with supporters of the right-wing political coalition, the MUD. Another of their recent reports focused on claims imprisoned that right-wing political figure Leopoldo Lopez didn’t receive a fair trial. Their third most recent report (at the time of writing) was another complaint about the Maduro administration’s human rights record, including false claims that “security forces violently cracked down on largely peaceful protests” in 2014. As I saw myself at the time, those suppressed “largely peaceful protests” included gangs of armed right-wing militants throwing Molotovs at hospitals, sniping at civilians from rooftops and setting up barricades to hold neighbourhoods hostage. Then and now, Venezuela is increasingly becoming a dangerous place for leftists.
Indeed, all the recent victims were either leftists, or police seeking to contain violent right-wing demonstrations. The latest victim was Marco Tulio Carrillo, the socialist mayor of a municipality in Trujillo state. Other victims include Haitian-Venezuelan solidarity activist Fritz Saint Louis, Tupamaro legislator Cesar Vera, and two police officers in Tachira state.
These killings take on a new dimension when contextualised: the right-wing MUD is preparing to oust Maduro, and wrestle control of all branches of the state from the left.
If they achieve this, the worst case scenario would be a return to the repression of the 20th Century, when leftists were all too often the targets of neoliberal regimes. Today’s right-wing has repeatedly shown it not only has no interest in disavowing violence, but is willing to turn on the Venezuelan people for their own political gain. From the 2002 coup to the violence of 2014, there has always been a sector of the right-wing that has never been afraid to use terror against ordinary Venezuelans. If it takes complete power, perhaps the MUD will learn to speak out against violence such as the recent killings, or perhaps not. After all, much of the MUD is generally slow to condemn violence against leftists, if they do so at all. So if they take complete power, will the right reign in their excesses, or rule with terror?