APRIL 19, 2017 marked the 56th anniversary of the failed US-backed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. But it also marked the 207th anniversary of Venezuela’s Declaration of Independence in 1810.
This year, however, the Venezuela anniversary also witnessed the latest in a series of strident annual protests by the political opposition against the Bolivarian governments led by Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro since 1998.
There have been earlier protests in which Venezuelans were killed. An opposition leader is currently serving jail time for his role in an earlier protest in which 14 persons were killed. But from what I saw on TV this week, the protests this year were the most violent and explosive.
Wednesday’s protests were clearly aimed at not just the government and ruling party, but anyone else who wasn’t on the opposition’s side, including police and innocent citizens, as well as opposition dissenters who dared to loudly oppose the use of violence, explosive devices and wanton destruction of public property.
The April 19, 2017 opposition protest was advertised to be the ‘Mother of all Marches’ and it featured unimaginable acts of violence in the name of peaceful protest.
Millions took to the streets on Wednesday. But the Western media highlighted mainly the opposition protestors, while almost ignoring the pro-government crowds that also mounted counter-demonstrations that same day.
Same with a minority of 14 Organization of American States (OAS) member-countries, led by the USA, Canada and Mexico, which failed on April 3, 2017 to get support for a resolution to authorize external intervention in Venezuela. They again issued a one-sided joint minority statement blaming the government for deaths and calling for early general elections.
Venezuelan TV channels were showing several instances of unprovoked violent acts against civilians, on defenseless policemen and national guards, ambushes of police motorcyclists, stoning and throwing explosive devices at police vehicles, seizing guns from cornered police officers, setting fire at public meetings, rampaging and pillaging schools and health centres, etc.
Arrested violent protesters displayed on TV confessed they had been paid handsomely by identified opposition right wing political parties and groups, named those who organized and paid for the protests, also pointing to places with explosive devices.
Then came the news about deaths…
The traditional mainstream Western press and the anti-government Venezuelan media highlighted that persons were “killed” during the protests, but without saying who killed them or why.
teleSUR, a major Latin American news agency based in Venezuela, reported a woman was in critical condition “after being hit in the head by an opposition sympathizer as she walked alongside a pro-government march.”
Three people were killed on Wednesday, among them a 22-year-old sergeant with the National Guard, shot by sniper fire. A man arrested after he shot a woman dead in a separate march was officially identified as an active member of a named opposition party, who had also reportedly shot 20 times against government supporters.
According to teleSUR: “Government authorities are also investigating the death of a 17-year-old, shot in the head near an opposition protest. Family members insist he was not participating in any demonstration, only on his way to play soccer.”
Venezuela called on the OAS to condemn the violence perpetrated by the opposition. But instead the Minority 14 issued an unofficial joint statement condemning the Maduro government.
As I watched the scenes from Venezuela TV and other Latin American media, I saw things simply unimaginable in other parts of the Caribbean: masked and armed protesters, with everything from sticks and stones to incendiary devices, violently attacking Police and National Guard ranks as they stood still with shields and batons; and anti-government protesters repeatedly kicking police officers.
On Thursday, leaders of the opposition announced they will continue their protests in Caracas to force the ouster of President Maduro. This means, among all the possibilities, more violent attacks can be expected, not only on government supporters and public facilities, but also especially on the security forces deployed to keep the peace.
With three people dead and dozens injured on one day alone, it is important that the Venezuelan authorities take urgent and immediate steps to allow the security forces to protect themselves against unprovoked violent attacks.
Those planning the fatal attacks to force regime change are quite aware that under Venezuelan law the police can only use teargas — and are prohibited from defending themselves as would be necessary in these circumstances.
As citizens of Venezuela as well, members of the security forces are among those the attackers claim to be protesting for. But they have become prime targets for violent attacks.
The authorities must now speedily disarm the attackers by arming the security forces with the power to defend themselves against these orchestrated violent attacks. One national guardsman has already been killed. No more should lose their lives without being allowed to even try to save it!