Father of Slain Venezuelan Youth Rejects Use of Son’s Image in Opposition Protests

The father of a 19-year-old killed by Venezuelan police Thursday has spoken out against the use of the youth’s image in violent anti-government protests that have racked the South American country over the past ten days.

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Jairo Ortiz Sr. rejects use of his son’s persona to promote anti-government violence (@VTVCANAL8)
Jairo Ortiz Sr. rejects use of his son’s persona to promote anti-government violence (@VTVCANAL8)
By Lucas Koerner
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Caracas, April 12, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The father of a 19-year-old killed by Venezuelan police Thursday has spoken out against the use of the youth’s image in violent anti-government protests that have racked the South American country over the past ten days.

Jairo Ortiz was shot dead by a police officer during a protest in Miranda state Thursday evening despite not being a participant in the demonstration. The officer allegedly responsible was promptly arrested and charged with the homicide on Friday.

Opposition leaders reacted immediately to the incident, claiming the killing was politically motivated and blaming the Maduro government. 

“Let’s honor Jairo and all of those murdered by the dictatorship demanding justice and fighting for the freedom of Venezuela,” declared National Assembly Vice-President and Popular Will party member Freddy Guevara via his Twitter account Thursday evening.

Speaking during an interview on state television Monday, Jairo Ortiz Sr. roundly condemned the use of his son’s persona by opposition leader to promote further anti-government mobilizations.

“If you really want to use the name of my son for something, use it for peace… Don’t use it to continue causing violence nor more situations that my son would never approve of,” he urged.

Ortiz reported being “enraged” upon receiving a call from far-right opposition leader Maria Corina Machado after returning from the funeral, stressing that his son “never liked politics, was never a supporter of either side”.

“I simply want to clear his name and what he thought, because it wasn’t violence. My son was totally peaceful,” he added.

In the interview, Ortiz also criticised the way in which authorities had policed peaceful opposition demonstrations. 

"I want justice, and let's look at both sides of the coin. On the one hand there are quite violent protests, and on the other, as in the case of Carrizal, there are peaceful protests," he commented.

"There were two kids filming and out came a guard from one of the two police and National Guard squadrons who didn't like it, and he shot my son," he continued.

The past week and a half have seen ongoing protests in Caracas and other major cities convened by the right-wing opposition coalition, the MUD, to demand the government bring forward presidential elections constitutionally set for 2018.

The demonstrations have been marked by widespread violence, including arson, theft, and destruction of government property that has cost over US $21,067 in damage to public infrastructure alone.

Four people have been killed so far in the course of the unrest, including Ortiz. 

National and state prosecutors are currently investigating the killing of Daniel Queliz, 20, in a protest on Monday under unclear circumstances.

Meanwhile, two more people were killed during a city-wide blackout in Barquisimeto, the capital of Lara state, on Tuesday evening.

Miguel Angel Colmenarez, 30, was shot dead by unidentified perpetrators on motorcycles and a pickup truck. Neighbors and family stress that he was not involved in any protest.

Bryan Principal, a 13-year-old resident of a local Great Venezuelan Housing Mission (GMVV) building, was reportedly shot twice in the company of his mother by armed protesters from a nearby private apartment complex. He was rushed to a hospital and died in the early hours of the morning.