Three people were killed on the first day of a peaceful student protest in Venezuela which deteriorated into rioting and violence with at least ten more students confirmed dead since February the 12th, the Venezuelan Day of the Youth. By Ginny Faulkner.
Three people were killed on the first day of a peaceful student protest in Venezuela that has deteriorated into rioting and violence with at least ten more students confirmed dead since February the 12th, the Venezuelan Day of the Youth.
The current protests began with students taking to the streets after a dispute with the government over the socialist regime and lack of freedom. They argue that the government must act to stop inflation (in December 2013 this stood at 56.2%) and huge crime rates. With 25,000 murders a year, 90% are being unpunished due to a lack of action and investigation by the police. Citizens have taken to twitter to speak out about how they feel unsafe in their country and how the government has done little to protect their human rights. However, the Venezuelan Government has shut the social networking site down within the country, meaning the only method of mass communication is state controlled television and radio.
From the reports which have been broadcast elsewhere, particularly the Colombian news network NTN24, the military is said to have acted aggressively, treating the protesters, who are unarmed, as criminals. Weapons being used by soldiers are suspected to include not only guns but also gas bombs, rendering the protesters immobile and therefore increasingly vulnerable to fatal tactics.
There is now evidence to suggest that protesters are being mistreated and possibly tortured after being arrested. The Government has cut off electricity to many homes and security forces have allegedly raided private sector warehouse facilities, creating purposeful shortages of food and goods. One of the students leading the protest has stated: “They [the Government] try to incriminate us as if we want to topple the regime. We don’t want to topple the regime; we want to destroy the lie, the dissimulation of the regime. It’s a totally different thing.” Unidad Venezuela, or the Bureau of Democratic Unity, the Venezuelan democratic alternative leading the protests tweeted that “The performance of the National Guard and the National Police violated guarantees laid down in our Constitution” and have declared the actions of the Government as “Brutal Repression”.
President Nicolas Maduro has dismissed the violence, stating that “to march in this country you need permission according to the law” and many of his elderly supporters are taking to the streets in support, describing the younger generation and students involved in the protests as fascists. The opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez was incarcerated (unlawfully according to opposition groups) on charges of inciting violence. He has stated that despite government corruption, the himself and his supporters will remain loyal to the cause they have undertaken, to protect the freedom of Venezuelan people.