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News: International

Venezuela Officials, Supporters Targeted by International ‘Witch Hunt’

Puebla, Mexico, May 18, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan government officials and Chavista supporters are facing a wave of attacks abroad, according to reports Thursday.

According to a report from AFP, Venezuelan opposition sympathisers have “unleashed a witch hunt abroad”.

“Groups of emigrants [are] identifying government-linked Venezuelans on social media and targeting them with insults and booing,” the report stated.

AFP cited a handful of incidents targeting Venezuelan officials and their relatives in the US and Australia.

Over the weekend, former Venezuelan politician Eugenio Vasquez Orellana and his partner were booed out of a Florida bakery. Venezuelan opposition supporters chanted “fuera” (get out), and the former minister eventually left. 

Opposition groups have largely welcomed the heckling, though Eduardo Gamarra, a Latin American politics expert at Florida International University, told AFP that the heckling “crosses the line”.

"If they have not violated any law in the United States and are here legally, they have every right to be where they want," he said, before continuing, "Bullying and reprisals are harassment and can have legal penalties."

Elsewhere in the US, on Wednesday a Venezuelan national was detained in New York. According to reports in Venezuelan state media, the man entered Venezuela’s UN mission offices at around midday, and asked for a list of diplomatic staffers and their personal contact details. When the receptionist refused, the man “began to shout cries and expletives inside the mission's offices,” reports Venezuela’s public Radio del Sur. The man later fled after allegedly stealing an official UN pass card, but was subsequently apprehended by local police, Radio del Sur indicated.

Meanwhile, Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez’s daughter, Lucia Rodriguez, was heckled on Bondi Beach in Sydney. Opposition supporters have since begun online petition demanding her Australian visa be cancelled. The petition goes on to claim Lucia’s lifestyle is funded by money of “’doubtful and dishonest’ origin”, before labelling her a “Radical Socialist”. 

Lucia is currently studying cinematography in Sydney. According to Australian public broadcaster SBS, she has been seen wearing a shirt that reads, “Capitalist patriarchy is ruining the world and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

Speaking to SBS, opposition supporter Pablo said it’s “unacceptable” for relatives of government officials like Lucia to live abroad.

“Why don’t they allow normal citizens to leave the country to get access to medicines but they can,” he said.

The Venezuelan government generally does not restrict its citizens from travelling to countries like the US and Australia. Over a million Venezuelans are estimated to be currently living abroad, with expat communities often being disproportionately wealthy and supportive of the opposition.

Also in Australia, two Venezuelans were detained after planning to throw paint at diplomatic officials at an event in Perth, according to Venezuelan Deputy Exports Minister Victor Cano. Cano said the incident was planned to take place during Latin America Down Under 2017, a conference aimed at strenghthening economic ties between Australia and Latin America. 
 
Speaking to Venezuelan media, Cano said the protesters planned on targeting the Venezuelan delegation.
 
“Thanks to … information from the staff of our embassy … and thanks to the police in Australia, two Venezuelans were arrested who tried to attack our country's delegation,” he told VTV.
 
Meanwhile in Spain, former Venezuelan government minister Maripili Hernandez was driven from a Madrid restaurant by dozens of protesters yelling "murderer". In a video released on social media, the crowd is seen aggressively surrounding Hernandez, forcing the journalist to leave the scene with the help of local police. 
 
The incident comes on the heels of an opposition protest outside a Venezuelan embassy event in Madrid. The event was aimed at promoting discussion on the current wave of political violence in Venezuela, which has so far left at least 52 people dead.

Venezuelan diplomatic officials accused protesters of blocking entry and exit from the event, and threatening attendees.

"We were threatened with death,” forum attendee and coordinator of the left-wing party Izquierda Unida, Daniel Moreno said.

Since then, more than 100 Spanish civil society groups have endorsed a statement accusing the Venezuelan opposition of seeking to “export violence to Spain”.

“Groups of of provocateurs protested in the entrance of the [embassy event], trying in vain to sabotage it, while attempting to violently prevent entry for the attendees,” the statement said.

It continued by denouncing that attendees who did make it through the protest “were then held against their will [inside the event] by means of violence for several hours”.

Protest organisers have denied allegations demonstrators acted improperly.

“Given the tension in Venezuela, people were very peaceful,” protester David Gonzalez told Spain’s El Confidencial at the time.

On Thursday, Venezuela's foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez issued a statement announcing the government in Caracas has started legal action against parties responsible for attacks on embassies abroad. She didn't provide any further details, only stating she had spoken "with a European lawyer".

Venezuela is currently facing its worst economic downturn in decades, along with widespread protests by the country’s right-wing opposition. Of the 50 people who have died in the unrest, eight may have been killed by state security forces, while 17 are believed to have been killed as a result of violence from opposition groups. That’s according to the latest data compiled by Venezuelanalysis. The rest of the deaths took place under unclear circumstances or were accidental.

Published on May 18th 2017 at 4.15pm