Three Shot in Merida as Violent Opposition Protests Continue

Among the wounded is a state police officer, a student, and a motorcycle taxi driver.

By Lucas Koerner

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Los Andes University student Freilan Alvarez (21) was shot in the right eye. (Prensa Gabinete de Seguridad y Paz)
Los Andes University student Freilan Alvarez (21) was shot in the right eye. (Prensa Gabinete de Seguridad y Paz)
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Caracas, May 9, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Three people were shot by alleged snipers in the Andean Venezuelan city of Merida on Monday. 

According to local press reports, Merida state police officer Hugo Guillen (27), Los Andes University student Freilan Alvarez (21), and motorcycle taxi driver Anderson Dugarte (31) were critically injured when they came under sniper fire along the Viaducto Campo Elias Avenue at approximately 6pm.

As shown in an explicit video, Guillen was shot in the neck, while Alvarez received a bullet in the right eye and Dugarte was shot in the head. All three are currently receiving treatment in the Los Andes University Hospital. 

Venezuela’s Public Prosecution has revealed that the incident occurred in the vicinity of an anti-government protest and has dispatched two state district attorneys to investigate. 

Merida state Governor Alexis Ramirez has blamed local opposition mayor Carlos Garcia for convening the anti-government protests that allegedly led to the sniper attack. 

“Carlos Garcia, you were the organizer of the terrorist [protest] agenda, you are responsible for those wounded by bullets,” he declared via Twitter Monday evening. 

In a separate incident, the Merida state activism coordinator for the right-wing First Justice party, Gabriel Boscan, was injured during an opposition protest on Monday when he was shot in the head with a rubber bullet presumably fired by state security forces. He is currently hospitalized undergoing treatment.

Merida has long been a hotspot of deadly opposition violence. On April 24, two public sector workers were shot and killed by snipers during a pro-government rally. More recently, a motorcyclist was injured this past Thursday when he collided with barbed wire strung along a thoroughfare by alleged anti-government demonstrators.

The latest wave of violence comes as the main opposition coalition, the MUD, organized yet another day of nationwide mobilizations in protest of the Maduro government’s decision to hold a constituent assembly. 

In Caracas, opposition supporters attempted to march on the Ministry of Education in the city’s western half despite lacking the necessary permit, provoking renewed clashes with authorities.

The mobilization saw fresh aggressions against government institutions, public infrastructure and personnel, including further attacks on the General Francisco Miranda Air Force base in Chacao. 

In video recorded from a nearby building in the eastern Caracas neighborhood of El Rosal, a national police officer is seen being beaten to the ground by over a dozen demonstrators with onlookers yelling, “fuck him up”.

In another attack on journalists, the private center-right television channel Globovision has reported that one of its correspondents and camera operators were doused with gasoline by protesters, while covering the opposition march in Chacao on Monday. The demonstrators reportedly threatened to set the journalists and their equipment on fire if they did not leave the scene. 

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s electric energy minister, Luis Motta Dominguez, has reported that an electronic appliances factory and a government medical clinic likewise were the targets of violence in Lara state on Monday evening.

The MUD has rejected the government’s invitation to participate in the constituent assembly and has instead vowed to remain in the streets until its numerous demands are met, including bringing forward presidential elections constitutionally fixed for 2018. 

Seventeen opposition parties not affiliated with the right-wing coalition have, however, signaled their willingness to take part in the constituent process. The parties – including Bandera Roja, Joven, Opina, Juan Bimba, Democracia Republicana, Movimiento Republicano, Poder Laboral, Resistencia Civil, UPT 89, Democracia Renovadora, Movimiento Ecológico and Mopivene – held meetings with the presidential commission tasked with organizing the assembly this past Monday.

Forty-two people have been killed to date in nearly six weeks of opposition protests, including 15 deaths resulting from the actions of demonstrators and 5 people confirmed dead at the hands of authorities.