Caracas, June 10, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denounced violent altercations during Thursday’s opposition protest that saw demonstrators attempt to forcibly enter the country’s national electoral headquarters in downtown Caracas.
“I condemn the acts of violence in the center of Caracas product of right-wing provocation,” affirmed the South American leader, speaking to supporters during a pro-government rally at Miraflores presidential palace.
The president’s statement came hours after an unauthorized opposition march to the offices of the National Electoral Authority (CNE) in the heavily Chavista heart of Caracas ended with protesters charging a police cordon, leading to the injuring of an opposition lawmaker under unclear circumstances.
The march was called by the right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD, with the aim of pressuring the CNE to release the timetable for a recall referendum against President Maduro.
Last month, Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) handed down a protection order prohibiting unauthorized protests in the vicinity of CNE offices following a violent opposition march that saw demonstrators attack police and vandalize public property.
Demonstrators breach police cordon
In video footage shot by Tvs Pueblo, 60 opposition lawmakers and hundreds of supporters could be seen rallying in front of a police cordon outside the CNE.
After authorities refused their request to enter the electoral offices to deliver an official petition, at 11:00 am the demonstrators proceeded to force their way through the light police line and continue towards the CNE entrance.
At the head of the protest were the opposition legislators Julio Borges and Alfonzo Marquina, who could be seen leading demonstrators in pushing through the line of police personnel.
When interviewed, protesters alleged that they were “pushed” by pro-government “colectivos”, but video footage showed opposition supporters walking past the breached police cordon.
MUD legislator Julio Borges could subsequently be seen walking towards the CNE donning a black helmet and flanked by bodyguards, amid a general scene of chaos.
One journalist was pushed to the ground by a blue-clad bodyguard accompanying Borges, while another was kicked in the head.
In later photos widely circulating in international media, Borges appeared in front of the CNE with no helmet and without bodyguards surrounded by unidentified men, who proceed to attack the lawmaker with pipes and fist blows.
Opposition spokespeople have accused pro-government “colectivos” of perpetrating the attack, though no evidence has yet been presented.
It remains unclear why the Primero Justicia party leader was left unaccompanied by members of his security team.
Speaking to CNN from a hospital where he was receiving treatment for a broken nose, Borges blamed the Maduro government for the violence and urged the military to intervene if no recall referendum is held this year.
“The time has come in Venezuela for the armed forces to decide if they are with the constitution or with Nicolas Maduro,” he warned.
The MUD parliamentary leader’s comments echo recent statements by Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles who last month called for a military revolt against President Maduro.
National and international authorities reject violence
Venezuela’s Public Prosecution has, for its part, ordered an immediate investigation, assigning 38th National Prosecutor Vladimir Angel Aguilera to the case.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) issued an official statement Thursday expressing its “rejection of all types of violence that may affect the free determination of all Venezuelans, supported by the international community, to create the conditions for peaceful coexistence”.
The statement was endorsed by Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, Leonel Fernandez, and Martin Torrijos– the ex-presidents of Spain, Dominican Republic, and Panama– who have served as mediators in UNASUR-sponsored indirect talks between the Maduro government and the opposition.
Thursday’s violent incidents were also met with condemnation by top government officials and leaders of Venezuela’s socialist party, the PSUV.
Jorge Rodriguez, top PSUV leader and mayor of the Caracas municipality of El Libertador, denounced the “aggressions against opposition legislator Julio Borges” and pledged his local government’s support for the investigation.
The head of the PSUV parliamentary bloc, Hector Rodriguez, additionally weighed in, rejecting “violence as a way of doing politics”.
The governments of neighboring Colombia and Brazil also issued statements rejecting violence and urging dialogue.
The Colombian Foreign Ministry called on “all Venezuelans to reject violence” and voiced its support for the UNASUR dialogue facilitated by the former presidents of Spain, Dominican Republic, and Panama.
For its part, the Brazilian government expressed its “concern” for the attack on Borges, which it said, “hinders dialogue between the government and the opposition.”
The new right-wing Brazilian government of Michel Temer came to power last month after President Dilma Rousseff was dismissed in an impeachment proceeding that has been widely denounced as a constitutional coup.