A List of Fatalities After a Month of Political Violence in Venezuela

A List of Fatalities After a Month of Political Violence in Venezuela

Ewan Robertson – Venezuelanalysis.com

Writing on 13 March, a total of at least 30 people have died in connection with the opposition protests, street barricades and unrest which have been occurring since 12 February in Venezuela. For a full article on the fatalities, wounded, damages and human rights implications of the recent political violence, see Venezuelanalysis.com’s study here.  

The list below explains that:

– 17 people died in barricade-related deaths, which include people shot while trying to clear a barricade, “accidents” caused by barricades and street traps, and patients dying after being prevented from reaching hospital by a barricade. This number also includes a pro-opposition student who was run over while trying to block a road.

– 5 of the deaths appear to be due to the actions of state security forces. All these cases are under investigation, and arrests have already been made in several.

– the other 8 cases are deaths in which either there exist contradictory accounts, it is very unclear who the perpetrator was, the killer was a third party, or where the death was an accident related to the violence. In 5 of these cases claims have been made that the perpetrator was an armed pro-government motorcyclist, with the word colectivos used in a pejorative sense to describe these groups (see Annex 1).

Based on information from press reports, 12 of those who died were civilians without an open political affiliation, 9 were identified as pro-opposition, 5 as pro-government, 3 were National Guard officers and 1 was a government lawyer.

A note on the following count

This list has been compiled using reports from Venezuelan authorities and media. It includes all deaths which have been reportedly connected with the protests, riots, and street barricades. However it does not include several cases which have been included on other lists, due to the possibility that these deaths were not related to the political violence but were in fact the result of other criminal violence. It also differs slightly from the count held by Venezuelan authorities, which does not appear to include the two cases mentioned below of deaths caused by barricades delaying patients in a critical condition from reaching hospital.

It is important to highlight that both this and all other counts are made using the available information and the judgment of the authors. New information produced as investigations proceed may change which cases count as being connected to the political violence, and who the perpetrator of each murder is considered to be. Observers are welcome to send in information to VA.com on cases that may have been missed, or information that suggests that cases which have been excluded from the current list should be included.

The list is as follows:

1,2 & 3: On 12 February, an opposition activist, José Roberto Redman (31), a pro-opposition carpenter, Bassil DaCosta (23), and a Chavista social activist, Juan Montoya (40) were killed during clashes in Caracas.

DaCosta and Montoya are assumed to have been shot during a confrontation with intelligence service (SEBIN) officers and armed civilians near the Attorney General’s office following the violent end of an opposition march in the area. Five SEBIN officers have been charged in connection with the deaths. President Maduro said that the SEBIN service had orders to remain indoors that day, and the officers present on the scene were acting against orders.  The director of SEBIN at the time, Gen. Manuel Gregorio Bernal, has been removed from his post.

Redman was reportedly killed later that evening by a motorbike rider who rode past a group of opposition activists on the street and fired at them. According to a witness, the rider was dressed in black and was “impossible to identify”. 

4: On 18 February, a 17 year old student, José Ernesto Méndez was reportedly run over by a car in Carúpano, Sucre state, while trying to block a road as part of protests. The person accused of running him over was arrested.

5: On 18 February, a student and former Miss Tourism Carabobo, Génesis Carmona (22), was shot and killed during an opposition march in Valencia, Carabobo state. Ultimas Noticias reported witnesses saying that a pro-government armed group had attacked the march. However, Interior Affairs Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres and other authorities later stated that ballistic investigations showed that Carmona was shot from behind “from within opposition ranks”. Authorities also say witnesses have confirmed this. The investigation is ongoing.

6: On 19 February, worker Asdrúbal Jose Rodríguez (26) was arrested by officers from the police force of the opposition-controlled municipality of Chacao, in the Altamira area of Caracas where protests were occurring. He was found dead the next day. Two officers of the Chacao police force have been arrested for suspected murder. Family members insist that Rodriguez was not part of the protests (as was apparently claimed), and nor was he trying to rob a motorbike, as a Chacao police source had said.

7: On 19 February, public attorney Julio Eduardo González (25), crashed his car in Valencia, Carabobo state while trying to drive around a street barricade.

8: On 19 February, Luzmila Petit de Colina (70),died when barricaders prevented her passage to a medical clinic in Caracas. Colina was suffering from arterial hypertension at the time and doctors said that the delay in reaching hospital was what provoked the death. Colina was the mother of a state channel TV presenter, Jean Francis Colina.

9: On 20 February, Arturo Alexis Martinez (59), brother of socialist party (PSUV) deputy Francisco Martínez, was shot dead in Lara state while trying to clear up a road barricade in Barquisimeto. Ballastic investigations suggested that Martinez was shot from a nearby apartment bloc.  A 28 year old man has been arrested in connection with the murder.

10: On 20 February, Delia Elena Lobo (41) died after her motorbike crashed into the barbed wire of a street barricade in Mérida state.

11: On 21 February, Elvis Rafael Durán (29) (note: the name has also been reported as Santiago Enrique Pedroza) died (reportedly beheaded) in the Sucre municipality of Caracas after riding his motorbike into an unseen barbed wire barricade.

12: On 22 February, a student, Geraldine Moreno (23), who had been allegedly shot with birdshot by a National Guard officer during a protest in Carabobo state a few days earlier, died from head injuries. The scientific police investigation body (CICPC) is investigating the incident, and have reportedly identified the officer responsible.

13: On 22 February, a student, Danny Joel Melgarejo Vargas (20), was stabbed near a barricade in Tachira. While twitter rumors initially claimed Vargas was shot by the National Guard, authorities revealed he was stabbed by a private citizen. State governor Jose Vielma said that barricaders damaged the bike of a motorbike rider and then put out a cigarette on his forehead when he tried to pass the barricade. The motorbike rider returned fifteen minutes later looking for revenge, and mistook Vargas for the barricaders, stabbing him twice. Two arrests have been made in connection with the incident.

14: On 23 February, José Alejandro Márquez (43), a systems engineer, was announced dead. His skull was fractured three days earlier when he was arrested by the National Guard during a protest in Caracas. There are conflicting accounts of events, one being that Marquez’ injuries came from falling while running to avoid arrest, another that National Guard officers beat Marquez while under arrest and caused his injuries. Seven National Guard officers are currently being investigated in connection with the incident.

15: On 24 February, Jimmy Vargas (34), an anti government activist, fell from a rooftop and died in Tachira state. The nearby street barricade that he manned was reportedly under attack by security forces at the time, and many local and national press outlets apparently falsely reported that Vargas was shot by the National Guard.

16: On 24 February, a businessman, Wilmer Jhonny Carballo (43), was shot dead when motorbike riders attacked a protest in Aragua state. Press mention the motorbike riders fired into the air, but don’t confirm exactly who killed Carballo. Family members say that the bikers were from a pro-government group.

17: On 24 February, motorbike taxi worker Antonio José Valbuena (32) was shot in Maracaibo, Zulia state, while clearing a barricade to open up a road to traffic. He was reportedly killed by a masked figure as part of an effort to dissuade the group he was with from their activity.

18: On 24 February, an elderly lady, Carmen Roldán (82), died when her ambulance was unable to reach hospital due to a barricade in Maracaibo, Zulia state. She and four residents from her care centre were reportedly suffering from respiratory infections due to the smoke produced from burning tires on the barricades.

19: On 25 February, motorbike rider Eduardo Anzola (29) died when he crashed into an unseen street barricade at night in Valencia, Carabobo state.

20: On 28 February, a National Guard officer, Giovanni Pantoja (29) was reportedly shot by an assailant while trying to clear burning tires from a road with fellow officers in Carabobo state.

21: On 3 March, student Luis Gutiérrez Camargo reportedly died when he drove into a barricade in Táchira state. However family members have also stated that Camargo actually hit rocks on the road near the barricade and not the barricade itself. Further, it is not clear whether the rocks had been placed intentionally on the road or not. Authorities are investigating.

22: On 3 March, motorbike taxi worker Deivis José Duran Useche died on a street in Caracas when his motorbike hit an open street drain whose lid had been taken by protesters, presumably to make a barricade.

23 & 24 – On 6 March a National Guard officer, Acner Isaac López León (25), and a moto-taxi worker, José Gregorio Amaris (24) were killed by gunshots during an effort to clear an opposition barricade from a road in Caracas. Authorities say the shots came from nearby buildings. An investigation is underway.

25: On 7 March, a motorcyclist, Johan Alfonso Pineda Morales (28), died when his motorbike sipped on oil placed on a highway in Caracas. Venezuela’s transport minister Haiman El Troudi claimed that the oil was placed “intentionally” by “terrorist and barricader” groups.

26: On 8 March, student and pro-government activist Gisela Rubilar Figueroa (47) was shot by assailants while she tried to clear a barricade that was blocking access to her community in Mérida state. She died a day later, on 9 March. An investigation has been launched.

27: On 10 March, Daniel Tinoco (24), a pro-opposition student in Táchira state, was shot while at a common meeting point with other activists. Private media reports say he was shot by unidentified gunmen on motorbikes. The government has joined condolences and ordered an official investigation.

28, 29 & 30: On 12 March, during a lamentably bloody day of violent confrontations in Valencia, Carabobo state, two civilians and one National Guard officer were killed, all from firearms.

The civilians were student Jesús Enrique Acosta (20) and a worker, Guillermo Sánchez (42), who died on Avenida Isabelica. Family members of the two insist they were shot armed by pro-government motorcyclists. The PSUV state governor, Francisco Ameliach instead claimed that the men were fact shot by snipers in a nearby building, “by their own people”.

The National Guard officer to be killed was captain Ramso Ernesto Bracho Bravo. He was reportedly shot in the face during confrontations with barricaders while his unit were trying to clear barricades on a street in Valencia.

Regional states in which the deaths occurred:

Capital District (Caracas): 11

Carabobo (Valencia): 8

Tachira (San Cristóbal): 4

Mérida (Mérida city): 2

Zulia (Maracaibo): 2

Sucre: 1

Lara: 1

Aragua: 1

Apparent cause of death

Deaths implicating security forces: 5

– Bassil Da Costa, Juan Montoya, José Alejandro Márquez, Geraldine Moreno, Asdrúbal Jose Rodríguez.

Deaths occurring on or because of barricades and road traps: 17 (16 implicating opposition activists or activities, 1 student run over).

 – Julio Eduardo González, Arturo Alexis Martinez,  Delia Elena Lobo, Elvis Rafael Durán, Antonio José Valbuena, Eduardo Anzola,José Ernesto Méndez, Luzmila Petit de Colina, Carmen Roldán, Giovanni Pantoja, Luis Gutiérrez Camargo, Deivis José Duran Useche, Acner Isaac López León, José Gregorio Amaris, Johan Alfonso Pineda Morales, Gisela Rubilar Figueroa, Ramso Ernesto Bracho Bravo.

Deaths where the perpetrator is not clear / accusations go both directions, the killer was a third party, or an accident occurred related to clashes: 8

– Roberto Rodman, Jimmy Vargas, Jhonny Carballo,Génesis Carmona, Daniel Tinoco, Danny Joel Melgarejo Vargas, Jesús Enrique Acosta, Guillermo Sánchez.

Of these eight cases, in six opposition activists were shot by so far unidentified persons, in five of which there exist accusations that the killer belonged to a pro-government armed group. In the other two, an opposition activist died by accident, and a bystander was stabbed.

Political affiliation of those who died

The below information is based on press reports and conclusions drawn by the author. As more information becomes available these numbers could change.

Civilians with no identified political affiliation so far: 12

Identified with the opposition: 9

Identified with the government: 5

National Guard: 3

Public servants: 1

Additional cases possibly associated with the political violence but not included on the list

On 25 February, Joan Gabriel Quintero was shot by unidentified figures during the sacking of a supermarket in Aragua state. It is not clear if this was linked to the political violence, or was related to gang violence, what authorities refer to as “settling accounts”.

On 27 February,Nancy Perez (89), the mother of the PSUV governor of Yaracuy state, Julio León Heredia, died of a heart attack. President Maduro said on national television that she died “as a result of the pot banging protest” that opposition activists were doing outside of her house. It is not clear at the moment if it was this protest that caused the heart attack or not, however Maduro did mention that the lady in question was in a delicate medical condition and was meant to remain in a calm and peaceful state.

On 10 March, a pro-government student, Angelo Vargas Stanco (25) was shot, reportedly from a moving car in Bolivar state. Another man, José Gregorio Padilla (27), who was with Vargas, was also killed.  Vargas had reportedly received threats after arguing against opposition students in university debates that classes should re-start. Private media have alleged that the incident was an attempted robbery. However police consider that the motive may have been a “revenge” to murder Gregorio Padilla, and so the killing may not be related to the violent protests and unrest. A PSUV parliamentarian also claimed the deaths were not related to barricaders, and asked that the case not be “politicised”. 

The above list reports two cases of deaths (here and here) which occurred when barricaders didn’t let patients experiencing an emergency medical situation to reach a hospital in time. However, President Nicolas Maduro said  on 24 February that 30 people, including those with respiratory conditions, had died as a result of the smoke from barricades and delays in reaching hospital. On 26 February Maduro went on to say that “over fifty” people had died in connection with the barricades.