Venezuelan Soldiers Arrested, 70 Businesses Looted in Miranda State

Another Venezuelan police officer has died Friday after allegedly being shot by opposition protesters, while unrest continued in the states of Miranda and Aragua.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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The remains of a barricade on a Miranda highway. (AVN)
The remains of a barricade on a Miranda highway. (AVN)

Puebla, Mexico, May 19, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Another Venezuelan police officer has died Friday after allegedly being shot by opposition protesters, while unrest continued in the states of Miranda and Aragua.

Officer Jorge David Escandon from the Carabobo state police died Friday morning from an injury sustained during a fire-fight with protesters on May 15. Authorities say Escandon was killed by a single shot to the head.

According to Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, Escandon and one other officer “were vilely attacked by snipers”.

“This is the result of the escalation of violence unleashed by [National Assembly head and opposition leader] Julio Borges, [and] headed by the main leaders of the violent and criminal opposition,” Reverol alleged.

The death was a grim end to yet another week of political unrest in Venezuela, with riots being reported in the central state of Miranda.

The latest wave of looting broke out late Wednesday in Los Teques, Miranda’s state capital. At least 70 businesses were affected, authorities have stated.

According to Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) Brigadier General Isidro Becerrit, rioters also erected barricades in some of Los Teques’ main thoroughfares, while security forces came under attack by looters welding blunt objects and other improvised weapons.

"We have information that between 800 and 1000 people were paid to generate anarchy and chaos, carrying out vandalism and acts of robbery of commercial establishments,” Becerrit told state media.

“It is important to emphasise that these actions weren’t just [spontaneous] looting, this was premeditated robbery,” he alleged.

Pro-government politicians in Miranda responded to the outbreak of violence by accusing Governor Henrique Capriles of failing to take action against looters.

“We’re all wondering: where was the governor [Capriles] who calls for violence?” Los Teques Mayor Francisco Garces said during a radio interview.

He continued, “How many people did Miranda state police detain?”

The Miranda state police are under Capriles’ jurisdiction, while the GNB is largely administered at the federal level.

Capriles himself responded to the looting by claiming it was part of a government conspiracy.

"All the businesses looted in our Los Teques, capital of Miranda, are being coordinated by Minister of the Interior and Justice Nestor Reverol … and the Bolivarian National Guard has been ordered not to intervene!" he claimed.

The GNB arrested at least 132 people in connection with Wednesday’s violence. The GNB were also seen clashing with rioters in numerous parts of Los Teques throughout the evening.

Nonetheless, Capriles alleged the government was refusing to take action against the looters as part of a plot to de-legitimise the regular, often violent opposition protests that have gripped much of Miranda for weeks. Then on Thursday, he accused the Venezuelan government of seizing his passport while he was heading to the US.

GNB arrests in Maracay

Meanwhile in the state of Aragua, prosecutors have announced the arrest of six GNB personnel accused of misconduct. The soldiers will face charges linked to the injury of protesters at a university in the state capital, Maracay.

The soldiers have been named as First Lieutenant Argenis Jauregui, First Sergeant Deivi Cabrera, and the second sergeants Joselin Alarcon, Franco Ojeda, Jose Molina, and Enmer Pineda.

“On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 17, a group of students demonstrated on the outskirts of the university, when the aforementioned soldiers came to the scene to restore public order,” the Public Prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The soldiers were accused of opening fire on the protesters, leaving six injured. So far, the GNB and other state security forces may have killed at least eight people amid the latest wave of opposition protests, according to data compiled by Venezuelanalysis. Comparably, at least 18 people may have been killed by the protesters themselves.