Santa Elena de Uairen, November 25th, 2014. (venezuelanalysis.com)- A Venezuelan committee made up of victims of the 2014 violent anti-government protests traveled to Chile this week to meet with a regional representative of Human Rights Commission of the United Nations to rectify the international “distortion” of those events.
The four committee representatives called on the UN official, Amerigo Incalcaterra, to recognize their stories and the reasons they hold jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez responsible for their losses. Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori had previously met with Inalcaterra to appeal for her husband’s release.
In February, apparently in response to a speech by Lopez, a faction of opposition supporters took to the streets, setting up roadblocks and vandalizing public buildings while calling for the removal of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. The barricades, known locally as guarimba, quickly became notorious for violence as the barricaders refused to let people and motor vehicles pass, often targeting those they deemed chavistas with verbal and physical assault.
Lasting until June, the guarimba barricades and clashes with the police resulted in 43 dead and 150 seriously wounded, including pro and anti-government citizens, passersby, and nine security officials shot by sniper fire while clearing road blocks.
The Committee for Victims of the Guarimba is made up of family members of the deceased and physically injured Venezuelans, some of whom are missing limbs and are struggling for their stories to be heard.
Lopez turned himself in in February after a public warrant went out for his arrest for the incitement of violence. He has been detained at Ramo Verde military prison since that time and is currently facing trial. Last month, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions recommended Lopez’s immediate release.
A statement released by the victims’ committee highlighted the group’s rejection of this judgment, “The pronouncements of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and the High Commission of the United Nations, in the case of Leopoldo Lopez, assume an ostensibly uninformed position regarding the events and the human rights of the victims of the Guarimba and coup [attempt],” read the communique addressed to Inalcaterra.
The committee also claimed their stories of loss “have been silenced or distorted by the media and other political actors, and even by international human rights organizations, who hope to portray the masterminds of the violence as victims of state power, forgetting who truly suffered the results of [Lopez’s] call to violence.”
The committee also encompasses Venezuelans affected by the April 2013 violence brought on by the defeat of right-wing presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who spurred supporters by claiming there had been electoral fraud. Twelve Venezuelans, including two children attending a parade celebrating Maduro’s victory, were killed in those resulting confrontations.