Venezuelan Court Orders Mayors of Protest-Stricken Regions to Clear Roads

Venezuela’s highest court ordered a group of municipal governments to ensure citizens can exercise their right to free movement, including by clearing critical thoroughfares of opposition barricades.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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Protesters blocking a highway in Caracas, using fencing to create a barricade. (AVN)
Protesters blocking a highway in Caracas, using fencing to create a barricade. (AVN)

Puebla, Mexico, May 25, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s highest court ordered a group of municipal governments to ensure citizens can exercise their right to free movement Wednesday, including by clearing critical thoroughfares of opposition barricades.

Handed down by the Supreme Court (TSJ), the order applies to eight mayors in the protest-stricken states of Merida and Miranda. Both states have been hard hit by anti-government protesters, who routinely block roads with barricades that are often defended by armed groups. These groups have long been criticised for refusing to allow ordinary Venezuelans to pass through, including blocking emergency services like ambulances.

Under the TSJ’s ruling, the mayors are ordered to undertake “the immediate removal of obstacles … [and] barricades, debris and any other material that could be used to obstruct urban roads.”

Supreme Court Magistrate Juan Jose Mendoza warned mayors that they could face legal consequences if they fail to ensure major thoroughfares are open.

“The aforementioned mayors must comply with these mandatory precautionary measures, otherwise they will be subject to consequences provided for under [the law],” Mendoza stated.

All eight mayors are also now under investigation for their handling of the protests, which have so far left more than 60 people dead.

The ruling comes in the wake of a wave of opposition violence targeting over 30 public institutions in the past week, and the deaths of at least six people. Among the latest victims was a man allegedly accused of being a government supporter, who was doused in gasoline and set on fire by opposition protesters.

The mayors that are named in the court order include Gerardo Blyde of Baruta, Ramon Muchacho of Chacao, David Smolanski of El Hatillo, Jose Fernandez of Los Salias, Jose Luis Rodríguez of Carrizal, Carlos Garcia of Libertador (Merida), Juan Jose Peaa of Alberto Adriani and Omar Lares of Campo Elias. 

The TSJ issued a similar order during the opposition violence of 2014, when anti-government groups sought to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to leave office through a campaign of demonstrations and street violence. At the height of the 2014 unrest, two opposition mayors were arrested after the TSJ found they had failed to comply with an order to clear roads of barricades.