After Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced [es] in a national broadcast that he would carry out special measures in the Táchira state to control demonstrations, internet users from different cities started to report irregularities related to police officers, the National Guard and some armed civilian groups in motorbikes.
Venezuela is going through an economic, political and social crisis which brought about thousands of citizens taking the streets to express [es] their discontent. For more than a week, Venezuelans have been involved in mass protests that, until now, have caused five deaths and hundreds of wounded and incarcerated people.
On February 19, Twitter and Facebook were used by protesters and witnesses to denounce the day-to-day repression carried out by security forces. However, this is not new, since a viral video by the research unit of the Últimas Noticias newspaper showed some members of the secret police SEBIN (Bolivarian National Intelligence Service) in the same moment and place where people were found dead last February 12.
This Youtube video allegedly shows members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB for its initials in Spanish) destroying everything they find in their way in Valencia, the capital city of Carabobo state, located nearly 250km away from Caracas.
Ortega Brothers shared a photo related to the situation in Valencia.
#Valencia #Venezuela #ElBosque 7:00pm @amnistia @amnesty @AmnestyOnline @AmnestyUK #GovernmentKillingVenezuelans pic.twitter.com/6JNvIfCtLs
- Ortega Brothers (@ ortegabrothers) 20 de febrero 2014
Most of the reports in Caracas came from the east and downtown areas of the city. As a matter of fact, repression started in Altamira, the scenario for most of these street protests. In his Twitter account, José Márquez not only recounts his experience in this area of the city, but he also denounces that the GNB threw expired tear gas at protesters.
En # Altamira la GNB lanza bombas lacrimógenas vencidas en 2010, Hoy # 19F pic.twitter.com/e7WtpCTewf
- José G. Márquez (@ JGpunto) 19 de febrero 2014
In Altamira, the GNB throws tear gas which expired in 2010, today, February 19.
Some users also posted videos reporting that they were being attacked by both security forces and armed men in motorbikes.
Similarly, citizens also denounced that people were being repressed in another residential area in the east of Caracas. Carlos Bruguera posted on Twitter that even though there were no protesters around, they were being repressed.
La GNB va y Viene Por La Rómulo, Repartiendo gas y PLOMO HACIA Los Edificios. Cabe acotar Que abajo ya no hay manifestantes heno. De Qué es ESTO?
- Carlos A. Bruguera. (@ Burrgh) 20 de febrero 2014
The GNB roams through the Rómulo Gallegos Avenue, throwing gas and shooting towards the buildings. It is important to note that there are no protesters. What is this!?
Jorge Estevez also described what was happening:
Minutos HACE UN contingente de la GNB atravesó la Rómulo Gallegos Disparando pic.twitter.com/lU45XZ0Ibu
- Jorge Estevez (@ jestevz) 20 de febrero 2014
Minutes ago a GNB contingent crossed the Rómulo Gallegos avenue shooting.
Other people asserted there were armed groups attacking buildings.
Carmela Longo asked for help and described what she was witnessing:
Auxiliooooo colectivos atacan a tiros Edificios en horizonte
- Carmela Longo (@ carmeLaLongo) 20 de febrero 2014
Help! groups are shooting at buildings in Horizonte
However, Luigino Bracci reported that protesters provoked the National Guard:
Grupos opositores en Montecristo provocaron Hace Minutos a la GNB lanzándoles cohetones a Quienes Estaban en la Av. R Gallegos
- Luigino Bracci Roa (@ lubrio) 20 de febrero 2014
Minutes ago, opposition groups in Montecristo provoked the GNB by throwing firecrackers at those who were in the Rómulo Gallegos Avenue
Downtown Caracas was the most repressed area. During the night users shared two videos that allegedly showed National Guard Forces shooting at civilians, leaving a wounded man in the road (Warning: the following videos may contain strong images).
Although there was no official information about what happened to these civilians, the Twitter account for El Universitario [es] affirmed that two people had died.
Confirman la muerte de 2 personajes en Manifestaciones en Caracas Durante Esta Noche: 1 en La Candelaria y El Otro en Av. Panteón
- Eluniversitario (@ eluniweb) 20 de febrero 2014
Two people confirmed dead during protests tonight in Caracas: one in La Candelaria and another one in Panteón Avenue.
Update: Alba Ciudad [es] reports that “the crime reporter for the opposition newspaper El Nuevo País, Altagracia Anzola, informed through her Twitter account that both individuals were alive and one had been discharged [from the hospital].”
Other states are also experiencing moments of high tension. Citizens affirm that Táchira state is under siege [es], and some users reported that their internet service was suspended.
Marc Bonet reported about this situation.
Táchira ahora mismo sin ABA y sin luz en muchas partes. El ejercito en la calle. Estado de sitio implementado pero NO declarado. #SOS
- Marc Bonet (@ marcb__) 20 de febrero 2014
Táchira right now with no internet service and no light in many areas. The army is in the streets. State of siege implemented but not declared.
Frases Únicas shared a photo about the situation in Táchira.
Barricadas en Av Carabobo Tachira, esperando ataque de GNB desde Faro . Tachira no se arrodilla pic.twitter.com/Z5coDHcofM“
- Frases Unicas ♥ (@ FrasesMundia) 20 de febrero 2014
Barricade in Carabobo Avenue, Tachira. Waiting for GNB attack from Faro. Táchira will not kneel down.
Some of the citizens used their Twitter account to provide a brief analysis on the escalating violence. One of them was Sinar Alvarado, who asserts that there could be even more repression if the government feels more threatened.
El chavismo desplegará todavía mucha más violencia mientras vea su poder amenazado.
- Sinar Alvarado (@ sinaralvarado) 20 de febrero 2014
Chavismo [government supporters] will display even more violence as they see their power threatened.
Others criticized that the state channel, Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), was not covering these events. Victor Amaya (@VictorAmaya) affirmed this on his Twitter account:
En VTV denuncian que hay autobuses agredidos por la derecha fascista. Nada dicen de heridos y muertos a tiros. Pobrecitos los buses
— Víctor Amaya (@victoramaya) February 20, 2014
On VTV they are denouncing that buses were attacked by the fascist right. They don't say anything about the wounded and those shot dead. Poor buses.
Finally, Audrey M. Dacosta in the blog Caracas Chronicles writes the following about the protests on February 19:
A grave line has been crossed. Real, physical violence is finally catching up with the huge reserve of pent-up rhetorical violence we’ve suffered through since 1999.
We’ve spent 15 years fearing this.
Now we’re living it.
Again, so there are some angry people in Venezuela protesting and the democratically elected government is trying to stop them. Ok, fine. But this article just re-posts a bunch of links to people who support the protests and unlike a large percentage of Venezuelans are wealthy enough to have access to smartphones. It’s really just protest porn. A useful article might have included answers to some of the following questions:
1) Who are these protesters? What tends to be their social/economic background? (Vague sentiments like they come from all sectors of society doesn’t cut it: no protest movement comes from all sectors of society.)
2) What do these protesters want? (Whining about “crime” doesn’t cut it: How really do they want to see “crime” rates cut? Also, these are people who protesting a democratically elected government, and some of them are talking quite openly about overthrowing that government. That could be acceptable if they had a program for a deeper form of democracy (perhaps one without any economic classes) then the democratically elected government itself rested on. Do they?)
3) What problems does economic inequality in Venezuela pose to someone (like the author of the post) who is trying to bring ordinary Venezuelans into a global conversation?
The article does not get into these questions because the answers would horrify most readers of this website. My impression of these protesters is that they are just rich kids who want their privilege back. They are angry that people who care about the poor have taken over the government, and they are using some real problems facing Venezuela (crime, inflation) for which they do not have good solutions to (their solutions come down to: “let’s go back to violating the human rights of poor people”) as an excuse to try to destabilize that government and replace it with a far less democratic one. There’s nothing in this protest porn that proves me wrong.
Are you kidding me? Do you really think the “rich” kids would – literally- risk their lives just because they don’t wanna lose their wealth? All of the “wealthy” people are probably either out of there or incarcerated already. You really should read up on how the situation actually is in countries like Cuba and Venezuela. Their president wasn’t elected democratically, it’s a dictatorship. People have the right to be unhappy about how their country’s economy is going down the drain, along with all their already poor people. Crazy, right?!