Latin America

Murderous repression in Venezuela

Following the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, the repression against anti-regime protesters in Venezuela has turned frankly murderous.

Audrey M. Dacosta writes at Caracas Chronicles:

Tonight, Venezuela is seeing a spasm of violence that’s unlike anything the country has experienced since 1989. Information is fragmented, since an almost complete media black-out is in place, but you don’t need the media to hear your neighbor’s screams.

Caracas, Valencia, Merida and San Cristobal in particular have become virtual war zones: National Guard units and National Police have been shooting tear gas canisters and buckshot sometimes directly at protesters, sometimes into residential buildings and, raiding any place they think student protesters may be hiding. Alongside them, the government backed colectivos (basically paramilitary gangs on motorbikes, a tropical basij) shoot at people with live ammo.

But of course, this is no war zone: in a war zone you have two sides shooting at each other. Tonight one side is doing all the shooting, the other side is doing all the being shot at.

At 1:54 you can watch National Guardsmen chasing and shooting a fleeing protester in Caracas:

Although an armed gang on motorcycles robbed a CNN crew in Caracas of their cameras and broadcasting equipment, Venezuelans are transmitting videos and photos to inform people inside and outside the country of what’s going on.

Almost certainly the thieves were a gang of colectivos, the pro-government thugs who are helping security forces to attack, beat and shoot protesters.

“What they are doing,” President Nicolas Maduro explained, “is working for the fatherland.”

To record and photograph the horrors is clearly a risky business. A commenter at Caracas Chronicles writes:

The situation is truly frightening. That pic you got of Valencia? I live there. I have to get through there every day to get out of my house. Never have I felt so scared of what might happen. Just a little further down where I live, at CC. Shopping Center, the National Guard turned it into a warzone. Shots being fired at buildings. Cars burned. GN forcing their way into the buildings. Shooting someone at a window who is filming you. And in my own neighborhood too. Want to get out to the street? Martial law applies to you (of course it’s not official). The magnitude of the situation is monumental, and tomorrow will probably be worse.

President Obama denounced the Venezuelan regime, which recently ordered the expulsion of three American diplomats:

“Along with the Organization of American States, we call on the Venezuelan government to release protesters it has detained and engage in real dialogue,” Obama told reporters after a North American leaders summit in Mexico.
“In Venezuela, rather than trying to distract from its own failings by making up false accusations against diplomats from the United States, the government ought to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people,” Obama said.

The question is what more, if anything, the US can do. It could embargo Venezuelan oil, meaning much higher gasoline prices and possible shortages. I could accept that, but I can’t speak for my fellow Americans.

Update: Madonna gets it.

Meanwhile Oliver Stone and George Galloway stand by their man.

Further update: Undercutting the claims of regime apologists, The Guardian reports that the protests have spread to at least one poor neighborhood in Caracas.

Additional update: The twitter post I linked to above is not from the George Galloway. The real Galloway promises to deal with the Venezuelan crisis on his RT program “Sputnik.” I think we can guess how that will go.