Youth March Against Violence in Caracas

Thousands of Venezuelan youth took to the streets of Caracas on Friday last week to demonstrate their desire for peace and support government measures calling for an end to the use of firearms in the streets of the South American country.

By Correo del Orinoco International
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Thousands of youth participated in the march (Comisión Desarme)
Thousands of youth participated in the march (Comisión Desarme)

The mobilization was spearheaded by the National Security University (UNES) and joined by primary and secondary students from more than 60 schools under the banner of "a safe and peaceful society". 

"We're marching for peace, for conflict resolution, for mediation in every school, on every street, and in every neighbourhood. We're putting our faith in peace", said Soraya El Achkar, Rector of the UNES, an educational institution founded in 2009 to train Venezuela's new National Bolivarian Police force.

According to El Achkar, "the formula to eradicate violence in the country is through peaceful conflict resolution and not by the use of arms".

Friday's march began at the metro station Gato Negro and ended in the Perez Bonalde Plaza where residents from the surrounding areas of Catia, Anitmano, and Petare participated in the call for an end to the violence.

"With this mobilization, we're saying to the entire world that we're not afraid to confront the violence. We're going to beat it with creativity, peace, love, dialogue and the recovery of public spaces for the population", said Pablo Fernandez, Secretary of the Chavez administration's Presidential Commission on Disarmament.

The news agency EFE reports that an estimated 10 to 15 million firearms are under civilian possession in Venezuela and that 98 percent of homicides in the country are the result of the same.

Venezuelan authorities, meanwhile, have informed that between the period of 2003 and 2011, more than 250,000 illegal firearms have been confiscated and destroyed by security forces inside the country.

Edwin Rojas, Vice Minister of Interior Policy and Juridical Security, expressed the government's hope to see more than 130,000 arms decommissioned this year, a number which would represent a record for the South American country, showing "the effectiveness of the policies suggested by the Presidential Commission on Disarmament created by President Chavez in May".

Current laws in Venezuela permit for the licensed possession of firearms by civilians, but new legislation being formulated in community discussions via the presidential commission aims to tighten gun control measures. Lawmakers expect a new disarmament law to come before the country's National Assembly for approval sometime next year.

Although gun control is a primary concern for the government, many working on the disarmament commission recognize the fact that crime in Venezuela is not only a question of policing, but rather of wider social issues.

"The problem of violence is a societal problem. We're here giving our support because we understand that we need to put an end to the culture of violence. This is a project that won't take place overnight, but we're taking key steps", said Congressman Freddy Bernal at the march on Friday.

In addition to the participation of the Presidential Commission and the UNES, Friday's action also saw the involvement of the NGO Red de Apoyo por la Justicia y Paz and more than 50 other human rights institutions and organizations.

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