Archive for January 23rd, 2009

Thick atmosphere of repression and lies, as protests continue in Venezuela

January 23, 2009

The whole week has been a remarkable show of what this Government is capable of. After Hugo Chavez gave his order to give the students the “good” gas if they began to protest, the police and the National Guard went overboard managing to gas students even before they began protesting and remarkably, even within their own campuses, as they prepared to go out, as was the case at Universidad Simon Bolivar.

If this was not enough, armed urban guerrilla groups which support the Government roamed free around the city, threatening protesters with their weapons and Government-produced tear gas canisters, while taking over the Metropolitan Mayors headquarters, without the Chavez Government moving a finger to stop it. Curiously, pro-Chavez students were allowed to march without any police blocking their way, in a clear demonstrations that for Chavez and his Government there are two different types of citizens.

But as Human Rights ONG COFAVIC reported, the police and the National Guard have been making use of inordinate amounts of force, including:

  • Massive use of high concentration and highly residual tear gas as well as the use of pellets from short range, which is expressly prohibited by international legislation on human rights.
  • Violent actions by armed civilian groups which affected workers of the Ateneo de Caracas and created security problems for the march by opposition students to the Supreme Court.
  • Arbitrary detentions which seek to criminalize actions of protest. 45 students have been arrested but the Courts ordered 40 freed and four were charged with resisting arrest and have to report regularly to the authorities.
  • Civilians are being accused in military Courts as was the case of two students charged with assaulting the country’s symbols. This is expressly prohibited by the Venezuelan Constitution, which defines the natural judges of the civilian population, as well as international human rights agreements.

Perhaps no episode best represents the abuses and lies of the Chavez administration that the case of the video shown by pro-opposition students yesterday. In the video, a uniformed man is shown, in a Government-made video, filling up bottles with a liquid and arranging them in very orderly fashion in a box in the back of a truck seized from the students. The man is then shown to get off the truck to give an interview to the Government’s TV station and it happens to be none other than the head of the Metropolitan police.

Once the video was shown, the Government began claiming that the Head of the police was simply showing the media the Molotov cocktails the students were carrying in the truck. This fails to explain why the man had to show how to use the bucket and funnel to fill the bottles or stick pieces of cloth into the bottles. Moreover, Molotov cocktails are seldom prepared in such orderly and pretty fashion as those shown by the official caught red-handed.(And the students are not that stupid to bring boxes of ready made cocktails in this tense atmosphere)

Yesterday, the Minister of the Interior said that he challenged the students to give the Government their “manipulated” copy of the video, suggesting they should be jailed if the manipulation was proven, but failing to say what would be his punishment if the video were shown to be authentic.

But the students were not intimidated and as the Head of the Police gave a press conference to ask that the Prosecutors’ office should open an investigation on the “manipulated video”, the students actually showed up at the Prosecutors office to hand over a copy of the video to prove their point.

But the Pinochian award of the day goes to former Metropolitan Mayor candidate Aristobulo Isturiz, who not only denied that Chavez had ordered anyone be gassed (despite videos), but actually seemed to get mad at the accusation. I guess just like Aristobulo said once that Chavez must be smoking something funny (Se fumo una lumpia, he smoked an eggroll),  he must be inhaling some really weird stuff these days.

Tomorrow is the 50th. anniversary of the overthrow of our previous dictatorial regime and the students will march to Plaza Venezuela, all permits have been approved and the CNE will send representatives to meet them there. However, with the short fuse the Government has had in the last few days, I can’t help but be concerned about what may happen tomorrow.