by Rebecca Arce
Last Friday, the Venezuelan Ministry confirmed that 11 civilians were killed and six were wounded during protests against Nicolás Maduro’s government in El Valle, a city southwest of Caracas, the capital. This raises to 20 the number of deaths due to riots in the last three weeks.
NGOs such as the Venezuelan Program of Education and Action in Human Rights (PROVEA), stated that manifestations were heavily repressed by the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and by “chavists,” defenders of Maduro’s dictatorship.
During the protest, a children’s hospital in El Valle, where 54 infants were hospitalized, was forced to be evacuated. According to the Venezuelan government, the hospital was attacked by armed groups financed by the opposition, known as the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), that denied any involvement with the case.
Riots have become more intense since last Tuesday, as Maduro announced the activation of the FANB’s “Zamora Plan,” to maintain internal order against “coup threats convened by Washington.”
“Given this scenario, I decided to activate the special civil-military strategic plan to ensure the country’s functioning, its security, internal order, and social integration,” added Maduro during a speech at his official workplace, the Miraflores Palace.
The content of the plan was not stated, causing the MUD to question if all opposition to the government will be viewed as a coup. “The military has a lot of power in Venezuela, so there could only be immediate changes if this system crashes,” said Rafael Uzcátegui, member of the PROVEA.
Last Thursday, nine Latin-American countries released a statement mourning the tragic events of the Venezuelan protests. The governments of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay strongly condemned “the violence unleashed in Venezuela” and lamented “the loss of more lives.” The Chilean Foreign Minister, Heraldo Muñoz, added that “it is urgent that the Venezuelan authorities adopt measures to ensure fundamental rights and preserve social peace.”
The nations also urge the Venezuelan government to “take back the path of a democratic institution” and to “set dates for compliance with the electoral timetable, release political prisoners and ensure the separation of the constitutional powers.”
Demonstrations against Maduro’s undemocratic administration have been raging since February 2014 when Leopoldo López, opposition leader, activist, and former Mayor of Caracas’ Chacao district, assembled students to protest peacefully against the lack of basic daily products supplies. Following this protest, Lopez was sentenced to 14 years for public incitement to violence.
Three years after the first protest, the lack of such products is still a predominant issue in the country. On March, 25, the city council of Barute promoted public bartering between civilians under a reinforced police control for safety purposes.