Venezuela’s Maduro Renews Dialogue Offer as Violence Drags On (+Video)

Mérida, 10th March 2014 ( – Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro reiterated his call asking the Venezuelan opposition to join in peace talks. Another government supporter was killed in protest-related violence over the weekend.

Mérida, 10th March 2014 ( – Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro reiterated his call asking the Venezuelan opposition to join in peace talks. Over the weekend another government supporter was killed in barricade-related violence.

“I want to invite the MUD [opposition Democratic Unity Table coalition] to join the peace conference…the whole country has entered the peace conference with the exception of some sectors of the opposition,” he said yesterday.

Addressing supporters at a march of commune activists in Caracas, the Venezuelan president also called on opposition student groups to dialogue with the government. “They [opposition students] haven’t responded although I’ve invited them five times [to talks],” Maduro explained.

He continued, “Let’s listen to each other talk, say all you have to say. I’ll also say my truths and I’ll say them with kindness”.

However key opposition figures rejected the calls for dialogue and advocated further protests and street action.

Leopoldo Lopez, who is currently in custody for presumed incitement to violence, tweeted to followers from jail yesterday, “We ratify our objective: Nicolas Maduro’s exit as quickly as possible in the framework of the constitution. He’s a disaster, an assassin, and illegitimate”.

In another tweet Lopez said, “The exit will only happen with an organised people in the street making the dictatorship retreat”.

Meanwhile opposition leader Henrique Capriles wrote in his Sunday column that the opposition should pursue “more street activity” but “without violence”.

“We want to strengthen social protests and for there to be more street activity…we must all go out and fight with strength to demand that the government discards its failed model,” he argued.

For the past month Venezuela has experienced a movement of opposition discontent, after hard-line opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez called his supporters onto the street to seek the “exit” of the Maduro government.

While some protests are peaceful and make demands over high crime rates and economic problems, a radical wing of the opposition has engaged in a violent strategy of riots and street barricades to attempt to force the government’s resignation.

Twenty three people have died in the violence, and over three hundred have been wounded.

Thirteen of the deaths were caused by street barricades, either when civilians drove into street traps and barricades or when activists or security forces were shot by assailants while they tried to clear barricades from the road.

Meanwhile four of the deaths are allegedly related to the actions of state security forces, and in the other five cases the deaths were either accidents or the perpetrator is unclear.

Venezuela’s ombudsman is investigating 44 denouncements of abuses by state security forces related to mistreatment or excess use of force.

“We’re going to investigate any disproportionate use of force. We reject it and we want justice to be proportionately applied, I want this to be very clear,” said Ombudsman Gabriela Ramirez in a press conference last Friday.

The latest violent death occurred in the Andean city of Mérida on Saturday, when student and pro-government activist Gisela Rubilar (47), was shot  by assailants while she tried to clear a barricade that was blocking access to her community.

Mérida state governor Alexis Ramirez, a member of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), said that Rubilar was “vilely murdered” as a result of “this situation of extreme right-wing groups, terrorist bands that are causing chaos and destabilisation”.

According to the governor, the scientific investigation police (CICPC) are investigating the murder. He promised that “those guilty will be punished”.

Other violence over the weekend by radical opposition activists included the burning of an athletics track in the eastern city of Ciudad Bolivar and burning and trashing of a ticket booth of the Caracas metro bus during a protest in the Altamira area.

In Mérida public transport was cancelled today, after a group of opposition street barricaders stole two buses, and reportedly threatened to burn them if transport services were allowed to continue.

The opposition also held a peaceful march to protest food shortages in Caracas on Saturday with around 2000 participants, AFP reported. Marchers were angry when they were denied permission to advance to the Food Ministry in central Caracas. Local authorities made the decision due to the fear that the march may “turn violent”.

This video by an anonymous author shows the struggle of citizens of the Pie del Tiro community in Mérida to prevent opposition hardliners from blocking their community with barricades. The first woman to talk is Gisela Rubilar Figueroa. The night following the recording she was shot, and later died in hospital.