Mérida, 20th March 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – One opposition mayor has been arrested and another jailed in relation to the street violence that has been occurring in their municipalities.
Last night the mayor of the San Diego municipality in Valencia city, Enzo Scarano, was jailed for ten and a half months and relieved of his duties as mayor.
Following an eight hour hearing, the sentence was ordered by the Venezuelan Supreme Court (TSJ) due to the mayor’s failure to comply with a Supreme Court ruling ordering him to take down street barricades in the area under his jurisdiction. The local police chief was also jailed for the same reason.
The barricades have been erected by militant opposition activists in several of Venezuela’s cities in an attempt to restrict the normal functioning of urban life and force the government’s resignation. Authorities have argued that the barricades are unconstitutional, and point to a range of negative effects they have on public health, as well as the violence they generate.
Meanwhile the opposition mayor of San Cristobal, the capital of the Andean state of Tachira, was arrested by intelligence police in Caracas yesterday. The order for his arrest was emitted by a court in Tachira.
The mayor, Daniel Ceballos, had been previously accused of supporting and financing street barricades and other violent actions in the city. Outside of Caracas, San Cristobal has been one of the cities worst hit by the violent unrest.
Along with allegedly ignoring a Supreme Court ruling to act to dismantle barricades in his municipality, Ceballos is to be investigated for charges of rebellion and conspiracy.
According to a report in Venezuelan newspaper Últimas Noticias, both Scarano and Ceballos are being held in the Ramo Verde prison near Caracas. Contacts report them to be “physically fine” and that the men have spoken with their families.
Interior Affairs and Justice Minister, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, said yesterday that Ceballos’ arrest was an “act of justice”. He argued that Ceballos was, “A mayor who didn’t just stop fulfilling his obligations under the law and the constitution, but also supported all of the irrational violence that was unleashed in the city of San Cristobal”.
The opposition’s Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition responded to the arrest by accusing the government of “continuing political persecution and arresting or—calling it by what it is—kidnapping the mayor of San Cristobal Daniel Ceballos”.
The judicial moves come as the pro-government majority in the National Assembly requested that the Attorney General and Supreme Court launch an investigation into the alleged role of right-wing parliamentarian Maria Corina Machado in the recent violence.
Unrest began in early February after hard-line opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado called on supporters to “light up the streets of Venezuela with struggle” as part of a strategy called “the exit”. Peaceful opposition protests also occurred, drawing attention to problems of insecurity, persistent shortages, and high inflation.
Violence continues and two more killed
At least two more people have died in the on-going political violence in recent days.
On Tuesday night a municipal services worker, Francisco Rosendo Marín, was shot in the head while reportedly clearing a barricade from a street in Caracas. The pro-government mayor of Liberator municipality in Caracas, Jorge Rodriguez, said the act was caused by “terrorists” who would be “found”.
There also are claims on social networks that the death was caused by an armed group on motorbikes.
Meanwhile, a National Guard (GNB) officer was shot and killed yesterday while his unit defended a university campus from attack by an alleged far-right group.
The GNB were posted to the campus of the National Experimental University of the Armed Forces (UNEFA) in San Cristobal, Tachira, after violent groups largely destroyed the facility on Tuesday.
According to the faculty’s dean, the groups forced their way into the building and destroyed the library, offices, tech labs, computers, and university buses. “They destroyed everything, the damage was total, they left us with nothing,” said Dean Vilmer Moron to state news agency AVN.
Authorities report that three people have been arrested in connection with the attack.
However, National Guard officer Jhon Castillo was shot dead during a fresh attack on the building yesterday. Police authorities have launched an investigation, and President Nicolas Maduro has condemned the incident.
“My condolences to [Castillo’s] family and all of the FANB [armed forces] who are in the street defending the rights and peace of the people. I swear to you we will do justice,” Maduro wrote.
On Wednesday morning Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz reported that according to authorities 31 people had died and 461 had been injured in the unrest.
Of the fatalities, 25 were civilians of different political affiliations and 6 were security or public officials. 318 of those wounded are civilians and 143 are from security forces.
Meanwhile of 1,854 people arrested since the unrest began, 121 are still being held in custody and 1,529 are on bail while their cases are investigated. Eight people have been sentenced for crimes related to the violence so far.
“We will do justice. It doesn’t matter who has committed the crime, they will be sentenced and punished. The majority of the people demand peace, and there’s a group that doesn’t want this, which must be isolated,” she argued during her weekly radio show.