Perpetrators of Violence against Venezuelan Opposition Students Unclear [updated]

According to Venezuelan press, at least seven students were injured last night in Las Castellana plaza, Chacao, Caracas, allegedly by government supporters.

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Part of the events last night in Chacao (AFP/El Universal)
Part of the events last night in Chacao (AFP/El Universal)
By Tamara Pearson
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Merida, April 9th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – According to Venezuelan press, at least seven students were injured last night in Las Castellana plaza, Chacao, Caracas, allegedly by government supporters.

The press reports that at 7.40pm last night around thirty people on motorbikes attacked members of the opposition campaign Operation Sovereignty. Members were camping in the plaza, supposedly still on a hunger strike.

One opposition student, Gaby Arellano, told press that the attackers “circled the plaza, closed it off, and started to throw rocks, bottles, and punches”. She said that two people on motorbikes aimed pistols at them, “then the Chacao police tried to intervene, but they fired and fled”.

The only evidence that the attackers were supporters of the government is that they were wearing red shirts.

The minister for internal affairs and justice, Nestor Reverol, has confirmed the seven injuries and ordered the National Bolivarian Police and the CICPC, Venezuelan’s criminal investigation body, to investigate.

He confirmed that there “was a brawl when a group of people on motorbikes barged into the plaza, causing damage to the camping area... and injuring seven people”.

“We reject and condemn any act of violence that happens, like the one that has just occurred,” he said last night.

However he also commented that it “drew our attention that the police ...didn’t act”.  The police protecting the protest were from Chacao municipality and Miranda state. Both these areas are run by First Justice, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles’ party.

Interim president, and candidate for the government, Nicolas Maduro also rejected the violence, saying “I’m committed to peace in Venezuela”.

Maduro said there are “groups who disguise themselves to play into the hands of foreign elements who seek destabilisation...infiltration exists... but if it was a radical group, which I doubt, they would also pay, because they are putting the country’s security and peace at risk at a key time”.

The protesting group in the plaza consists of around 45 youth from the organisation JAVU (Active Youth, United Venezuela). They have been demanding “free and transparent elections” since last Wednesday.

In February the same small group held a symbolic hunger strike, demanding then President Hugo Chavez return from Cuba where he was being treated for cancer. When he arrived in Venezuela a few days later, they ended their protest, then started a new one, demanding Chavez swear-in for his next term in office.

Various members of the Venezuelan government have alleged that JAVU is “financed from overseas”. The group is linked to the Miami based Organisation of Venezuelans in Exile (ORVEX).

Update

This morning, 10 April, residents of Chacao denounced to Alba Ciudad that it was the Javu students who started the attacks. They said they had been doing their regular campaigning for Maduro, driving around in trucks with sound systems, when they were attacked with bottles, stones, and molotov cocktails by the Operation Sovereignty campaigners.

They said that in this confrontation, at least three Maduro supporters were injured. 

Alba Ciudad reports that after these events, various Venezuelan private media created the story that "200 Chavistas" had entered the campaign area and attacked the students. The residents who were campaigning have said they are "hurt" becomes some of their comrades who weren't there have called them "infiltrators".

Video of the pro-Maduro residents' testimonies is available here, in Spanish.

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