Venezuela Journalists, Priest, and Chavez Supporters Attacked by Opposition

Several people were attacked by opponents of President Chavez, who angrily protested an electoral information center set up by supporters of the President at an upper-class Caracas neighborhood

By Martin Sanchez - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Caracas, Venezuela. June 29 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Several people were attacked this Sunday by opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who angrily protested an electoral information tent set up by supporters of the President at the upper-class neighborhood of Alto Prado, in eastern Caracas.

Supporter of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Guillermo Guacarama, was attacked by several opponents of the President during a protest last in Caracas
Chavez supporter Guillermo Guacarama was attacked by several opponents of the President during a protest last Sunday in Caracas.
Credit: Maiquel Torcatt - Venpres

According to the pro-Chavez volunteers, the goal of setting up the tent was to hand out information about voting centers, ID cards renewal, and voter registration for the upcoming recall referendum against the President.

The visible presence of supporters of the government in wealthy areas is rare, as most of the President’s loyalists are concentrated in working-class and lower middle-class areas, and those living in upper-class neighborhoods do not express their political views in public for fear of being attacked or segregated by members of the opposition.

A Chavez opponent holds a sign that says 'today they invaded the plaza, tomorrow they will invade your house. Blowing your horn is not enough'
A Chavez opponent holds a sign that says "today they invaded the plaza, tomorrow they will invade your house. Blowing your horn is not enough".
Credit: Maiquel Torcatt - Venpres

The protest started on Sunday morning, two hours after the tent was installed at a local park by the pro-Chavez volunteers who claimed to live in the neighborhood. Tensions increased as Chavez opponents surrendered the tent while banging pots, blowing whistles, and shouting anti-Chavez slogans.

One man used a megaphone to incite neighbors to “drive the Chavistas out.” Others toured the neighborhood calling people to join the protest against the “Chavista invaders.”

“Today they invaded the plaza, tomorrow they will invade your house, blowing your horn is not enough,” shouted a woman while another protester held a sign with that same slogan.

Government journalists attacked

Several people were attacked; two of them required medical attention. Journalist Romelia Matute, from the state-owned National Radio of Venezuela, was thrown into the ground by someone who pulled her hair from behind while she was conducting an interview. Matute’s neck was injured and she is awaiting the results of medical tests to determine the severity of the injury.

Journalist Romelia Matute, who works for state owned Radio Nacional, is under medical observation after an opponent of Chavez, pulled her hair, throwing her into the ground
Journalist Romelia Matute, who works for state-owned Radio Nacional, is under medical observation after an opponent of Chavez, pulled her hair from behind, throwing her into the ground, while she was conducting an interview.
Credit: Venezolana de Television

“This is pure fascism, I was attacked by my own neighbors,” said Matute who resides in the area.

Photographer Maiquel Torcatt, who works for the state news agency Venpres, claim to have received death threats while taking photographs of the protest. “Stop taking pictures or your head will fly in one direction and your camera in another,” said one of the anti-Chavez protestors, according to Torcatt.

A camera operator for state TV Venezolana de Television was insulted as he taped the protest.

Anti-Chavez demonstrator expresses her repudiation of a TV crew of state-owned Venezolana de Television
Anti-Chavez demonstrator expresses her repudiation of a TV crew from state-owned Venezolana de Television.
Credit: Venezolana de Television

Municipal police officers were present in the area in small numbers and didn’t do enough to protect the outnumbered Chavez supporters. The anti-Chavez mob penetrated the security barrier set up by the police and managed to destroy one of the tents. The mayor of the municipality of Baruta, where Alto Prado is located, is a Chavez opponent.

Caracas Metropolitan Police units, which are controlled by opposition Mayor Alfredo Peña, arrived later, but, according to witnesses, did very little to help. The National Guard was called in to escort the volunteers out.

Priest attacked and insulted

Anglican priest Orlando Guerrero was also attacked by the anti-Chavez protestors. Guerrero had joined the pro-Chavez volunteers to lead a prayer for pro-Chavez Catholic priest Juan Vives Suriá, who died on Saturday. The priest was hit in his back and in the head with a kitchen pot, and was thrown soda in his face as he prayed in loud voice. Video footage (see bottom) shows Guerrero being escorted out by the police as anti-Chavez protestors called him “assassin”, “motherf**er”, “traitor”, “son of a bitch”, “faggot”, and other insults.

Anglican priest Orlando Guerrero had to be escorted out by the police after being attacked and insulted by anti-Chavez protestors
Anglican priest Orlando Guerrero had to be escorted out by the police after being attacked and insulted by anti-Chavez protestors.
Credit: Venezolana de Television

Guillermo Guacarama, a resident of the area who supports Chavez, was attacked by several opponents of the President, as he walked towards the tent. Guacarama received an injury near his right eye, and had to be taken to a hospital.

José Luis Brito, another supporter of the President, was also attacked by several opposition sympathizers as he walked towards the tent. One of the subjects sprayed him in the face with a paralyzer which blinded him for several minutes as the anti-Chavez protesters pushed him around before the police could intervene.

A supporter of President Chavez was sprayed in the face with a paralyzer
A supporter of President Chavez was sprayed in the face with a paralyzer by an opponent of the President during a protest in the upper-class neighborhood of Alto Prado, in eastern Caracas.
Credit: Maiquel Torcatt - Venpres

Ms. Emma Rosa Palencia, a Chavez supporter who has lived in the area for more than 14 years, was insulted by her neighbors when her political preferences became know. "They told me to move out to El 23 de Enero," she said. El 23 de Enero is a working-class neighborhood in western Caracas, where Chavez is popular.

The vehicles belonging to the pro-Chavez volunteers were also damaged.

Opponents dismiss incident as “provocation”

Chavez opponents such as National Assembly Deputy Gerardo Blyde, form the right-wing Primero Justicia (Justice First) party, seemed to justify the protest putting the blame on the pro-Chavez group. "This is an act of provocation against the opposition," said Blyde during a radio interview. The lawmaker accused journalist Romelia Matute of faking her injury to make the opposition look bad. Matute offered Blyde the names and phone numbers of the doctors who treated her, who according to her are sympathizers or members of Blyde’s own party, so he can verify the authenticity of her injury.

A supporter of President Chavez is attacked by members of the opposition
A supporter of President Chavez is attacked by members of the opposition during a protest in the upper-class neighborhood of Alto Prado, in eastern Caracas.
Credit: Maiquel Torcatt - Venpres

Pro-Chavez campaigning will continue

Volunteers for President Chavez’s recall referendum campaign vowed to continue organizing and campaigning in upper and upper middle-class areas, where they have found unexpected support. “One of the positive things about the [Alto Prado] incident is that we didn’t know there were so many Chavez supporters here,” said one of the organizers after the incident was over.

President Chavez said that those who attacked his supporters are not to blame, as they "are suffering from psychological problems due to the media campaign" against him. "They could attack our children, youths, and elderly. They are a danger to themselves and to the rest of society... They need help," he said.

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