One person was killed after a third day of protests turned violent in Venezuela on Thursday.
Nineteen-year-old Jairo Ortiz has been confirmed dead by police in Miranda state. A police spokesperson told the press Ortiz was killed during a night of protests in Miranda’s Montaña Alta, in the municipality of Carrizal. Venezuela’s Public Prosecutor’s office announced Friday that it will promptly indict Rohenluis Mata Rojas, the officer allegedly responsible for the killing. Mata Rojas was reportedly detained on Thursday evening.
Photos circulated online showed anti-government groups blocking a highway in Montaña Alta. One photo published by newspaper El Nacional showed a barricade comprised of garbage and a torched car.
The clashes in Miranda ended the third consecutive day of protests in Venezuela. At least nine people were reported injured on Tuesday, while the National Guard has confirmed that seven of its personnel incurred wounds inflicted by protesters.
Thursday’s unrest began with anti-government protesters blocking a main thoroughfare of Caracas, demanding President Nicolas Maduro resign.
Police who responded to the demonstration were met with improvised incendiary devices, including molotov cocktails. Police hit back with volleys of tear gas, and by late afternoon the main protest had subsided.
While opposition supporters have accused security forces of using excessive force to quell the armed demonstrators, the government has called for peace.
“You’re looking for deaths,” prominent socialist party leader Freddy Bernal said during a pro-government rally. Bernal continued by accusing opposition leaders of using their supporters as cannon fodder.
“Don’t then come crying that you’re being persecuted,” he said.
The opposition has hit back by accusing the Maduro administration of acting like a dictatorship.
“We’re not in a democracy, and the only way you can make a dictatorship respect the constitution is by forcing it to,” National Assembly Vice-President and hard-right opposition leader Freddy Guevara said during Thursday’s rally.
The latest round of unrest came in the wake of a controversial Supreme Court (TSJ) decision last week. In a ruling that enraged the opposition, the Supreme Court declared it could pass legislation without authorisation from Venezuela’s parliament, the National Assembly (AN). The legislature is controlled by the opposition, but for months has been in contempt of the Supreme Court. While the high court’s ruling has since been retracted, the AN has begun proceedings this week to remove Supreme Court justices.
On Thursday, Venezuela’s Moral Republican Council, the country’s fifth citizen branch of government charged with overseeing the judiciary, found that the Supreme Court justices had not committed any constitutional fault that would merit their removal. Despite the announcement, the opposition has vowed further protests, with more demonstrations set to take place over the weekend.
Meanwhile, government supporters have responded by holding their own rallies, drawing thousands to the streets in support of Maduro. Vice-President Tarek El Aissami has accused the opposition of seeking a repeat of the 2014 guarimbas, which saw armed right-wing groups block roads and stage attacks on government supporters. 43 people died during the guarimba violence; most were either government supporters, members of state security forces or innocent bystanders.
Speaking to state broadcaster VTV, El Aissami said the opposition are again seeking to promote the violent overthrow of the government.
“We have arrested 30 guarimberos who tried to sow chaos in the capital,” El Aissami said.
He continued, “They said they were going to concentrate their protests along the Altamira highway, but they already had plans to reach the [Caracas city] centre to create violence.”
With additional reporting by Lucas Koerner.
Venezuela Opposition Continues ‘Illegal,’ Violent Protests
Consecutive days of protests have turned violent as the opposition is hellbent on not working to end the political impasse in the country.
Right-wing opposition supporters took to the streets of Caracas and other cities in Venezuela on Saturday in ongoing violent protests against the government as fears mount of a possible repeat of the February 2014 Guarimbas opposition-led riots which left 43 people dead.
Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami said that Saturday’s march was “illegal and unconstitutional” adding that the protesters were “seeking a provocation, that will lead to violence.”
In particular, El Aissami accused opposition leader Henrique Capriles, of inciting violence in the protests. On Friday, Capriles was banned from running for office for 15 years for misappropriating government funds for personal and political use.
Since Tuesday, anti-government demonstrators have been attacking National Guard and police officers with sticks, rocks and trash cans in the socialist country’s capital. The riots were organized in protest against a recent decision by the Supreme Court to temporarily assume some responsibilities of the National Assembly as long as the legislature continued to be “in contempt” of the constitution, a ruling that was eventually overturned. Even though Venezuela’s top court has since reversed the decision, the right-wing opposition continues to incite violence, echoing mainstream media claims of a “self-coup.”
Venezuela’s National Assembly still remains in contempt of the country’s consumption. On Jan. 5, 2016, the Supreme Court had ruled the assembly was in contempt because three opposition members were sworn in, despite being temporarily suspended for voting irregularities.
If the National Assembly were to remove the three lawmakers, it could easily resolve its current legal status, but instead still continues to be in contempt.
On Wednesday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez blasted the Organization of American States for supporting right-wing violence and perpetuating the “self-coup” myth. Rodriguez said the OAS has an agenda intended to “interfere in the internal affairs of states.”
The large protests blocked off major streets and fires were lit in on highways, with protesters shown taunting and throwing rocks at police officers.
Large armored vehicles were used by security forces to keep back protesters and checkpoints were set up across the Caracas and 17 metro stations were closed.
Media outlet VTV, who were covering the protests with a video team, were also attacked by a group of protestors.
Meanwhile, pro-government supporters rallied in downtown Caracas and played music and had sporting competitions.
The recent opposition violence has resembled the infamous right-wing Guarimbas protests which blockaded streets in February 2014 in an attempt to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.