Mérida, 9th August 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – As the Venezuelan government relaunches its 'A Toda Vida' mission, 97 armed groups in Caracas have pledged to disarm.
During a ceremony in western Caracas on Thursday, President Nicolas Maduro met with representatives of groups he described as young people linked to criminal activity. However, he also stated that many of the groups had been forced to defend the slums of the capital and “to fight state terrorism of the Fourth Republic”; something which he argued is no longer necessary.
“I will hold out my hand to you to join peace,” Maduro stated, urging those who disarmed to help “build a peaceful society”.
Although the firearms surrendered by the groups were publicly deactivated yesterday, the weapons are set to be completely dismantled by authorities. The president invited members of the disarmed groups to join the Bolivarian Militia, and urged others to likewise hand over their weapons to authorities voluntarily.
“This problem of violence, the cult of weapons, the killing, you must end it,” Maduro stated.
“The national armed forces must have the weapons of the Republic, not the people,” he said.
However, during his speech Maduro also emphasised that his administration is taking a less reconciliatory approach with armed groups on the borders. Just last week, Maduro announced a new joint civil-military taskforce to tackle criminal organisations operating on the borders with Colombia and Brazil. The initiative will focus on cracking down on smuggling, Maduro has stated.
Yesterday, he reiterated that his administration will work closely with the Colombian government to stamp out cross border smuggling.
However, Maduro's calls for disarmament were preceded by the alleged shooting of a university student in Carabobo state early yesterday morning. According to authorities, six military personnel have been detained as suspects in the shooting, which relatives of the victim Anderson Oliveros have told media took place just south of the city of the state capital Valencia, at around two o'clock in the morning. Anderson's mother, Coromoto Rojas has accused the soldiers of unnecessarily opening fire on the vehicle, which she said resulted in her son sustaining a fatal bullet wound to the neck.
The soldiers were reportedly engaged in a routine patrol as part of the Plan Secure Homeland when the shooting took place.
Under the Plan, soldiers are deployed alongside police in some of Venezuela's most crime-afflicted neighbourhoods. Last month, interior minister Miguel Rodriguez announced the Plan would be expanded, stating that authorities have seen crime decrease by an average of 40% in areas where the initiative has been implemented. Yesterday, Maduro reiterated support for the Plan, and backed its expansion.