Merida, 11th February 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Violent sectors of the opposition have continued protests over the weekend and yesterday, leaving parts of the main cities in Merida and Tachira states closed, and some serious injuries.
In Merida yesterday opposition students and youth, some armed, marched through the city centre and protested outside the state government building, and another small march was held in the nearby town of Ejido. Marchers chanted “Maduro resign now!”
According to Denys Gomez, a state government spokesperson, one student was electrocuted when he tried to throw a rock from a tree and touched a power line. He is in hospital.
Observers told Venezuelanalysis.com that they witnessed opposition protestors firing live ammunition indiscriminately into buildings, throwing rocks and attempting to storm a communal house in the city centre.
Today Venezuelanalysis.com observed protestors in balaclavas forcibly stopping vehicles at a main intersection in Merida city's north. The masked protestors forced passengers off buses at gunpoint, and threw shrapnel at other motorists passing through the intersection.
While covering this story, the Venezuelanalysis.com journalist was held at gunpoint by three protestors, who threatened to “kill” her. The group then attempted to rob the journalist.
“Give us your camera or we’ll kill you,” the protestors repeatedly stated.
On social networks and in the private media the opposition demonstrators have called their protests “peaceful” and claimed the police were repressing them. However, at least three police were injured, and many observers commented that after days of road closures, they wanted police to prevent the very small groups of students from blocking main roads by burning tires.
Videos of the protestors using fire and rocks against the police are available. The Merida state governor, Alexis Ramirez, also released this picture of one of the armed protestors.
The governor alleged that one student who had been arrested claimed that he had been paid 150 bolivars by far right opposition leader, Villca Fernandez to protest. Almost all students protesting wore balaclavas.
Newspaper El Universal reported that two protestors have been detained in Merida, as well as one state policeman for injuring one student, Jose Suarez, on Friday.
In Tachira state, following violent protests last week and the arrest of five protestors, yesterday students marched demanding the protestors be released. They also burned tires outside the Experimental University of Tachira (UNET).
In Chacao, Caracas, Aporrea reports that on Saturday around twenty people blocked a main road, including impeding an ambulance, and that another group of people protested their actions nearby.
Opposition internal division and protest plans
Villca Fernandez, the national coordinator of far-right student movement Liberation and one of the people who held a “hunger strike” (he was filmed eating) in 2011 for supposed “political prisoners”, spoke on NTN24 last Friday.
He claimed the protests were about “growing insecurity” in the country. However he also stated, “Maduro has to understand that the student movement will never recognise him as president... he should resign, and we’ll be in the streets until we recover freedom” then invited “all Venezuelans” to “go out into the streets and raise your voice against the violence”.
The protests however also coincide with Popular Will leader, Leopoldo Lopez’s call for opposition marches tomorrow.
Yesterday Lopez was also involved in a small incident at Caracas airport, where he was taking a plane to Tachira to address protesting students.
While Lopez claimed his flight with state owned Conviasa was delayed on purpose to prevent him getting to Tachira, United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader Diosdado Cabello claimed Lopez had physically attacked airport staff and the plane, and for this reason the flight was delayed. Cabello said Lopez will be brought before a court for the aggressions.
Youth minister Victor Clark said the opposition protestors were a “minority” and didn’t “represent Venezuelan youth who want peace, to study, and to use the university as a space to grow”.
Central University of Venezuela (UCV) student leader, Alejandro Padron said that Lopez and his party were calling for “violent mobilisations” for tomorrow, national youth day, in universities in order to “try to destabilise the country”.
Further, Padron alleged that Lopez had “hired” a group of “organised criminals” through the Red Anonimos (Anonymous Network) so that they occupy universities and “promote criminal acts”.
Secretary of the Venezuelan Communist Party Youth, Hector Rodriguez said that the opposition’s actions “aim to use violence to rupture the process of change that our country is carrying out”.
Opposition governor Henrique Capriles also criticised the protests in Merida and Tachira, revealing some internal differences or divisions in the opposition and a leadership struggle, El Universal reported. Capriles said the protests were “empty, without content” and were limited to “immediacy”.
“It’s not about going to a plaza and talking to ourselves.... we’re not interested in violence, the solution has to be built properly... given what Venezuela is experiencing, and the chaos we are living in, we can’t be promoting more chaos,” Capriles said.
President Nicolas Maduro warned last night that there are “plans coming out of Miami [i.e. the United States] to fill Venezuela with blood” tomorrow, and he called on the population to not “fall for the provocations”.
He said that while the government “is promoting plans for peace, the opposition is combining strategies of economic war, psychological war, and trying to fill the country with blood”.
Tomorrow government supporters will also march around the country to commemorate the day of the youth and “for peace”.