Thursday, February 13, 2014

Venezuela: Student Protesters Rally Against Violence

Several hundred university students in Venezuela took to the streets on Thursday after three people were killed after demonstrations yesterday.

In the capital city of Caracas, traffic on the Francisco Fajardo highway was halted for several hours as scores of protesters called for an investigation into the death of university student Bassil Da Costa on Wednesday.  Amateur videos uploaded to social networks showed Da Costa shot dead in downtown Caracas amid the chaos following an anti-government protest that was attended by an estimated ten thousand people.  

“We urge the government to guarantee us our freedom as students, said Marcos Mata, a Humboldt University student present with 300 other demonstrators at Altamira Plaza earlier today.  “We repudiate the violence that occurred yesterday.  Our march was peaceful,” added Mata.

Mata also called on the authorities to free two students reportedly detained by the police after Wednesday’s march and whose whereabouts are unknown.

In the meantime, scores of Da Costa’s classmates gathered in the outskirts of Caracas to protest in memory of the slain student.

Students in other parts of Venezuela were also protesting in repudiation of the violence yesterday that left among the dead Da Costa and pro-government activist Juan Montoya. Such was the case in Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city, where several downtown streets were blocked off and classes were canceled at Zulia University.  Additionally, student demonstrators in Anzoátegui state held signs blasting the government and blamed Venezuela’s main intelligence agency for trying to stifle democracy.

Meanwhile, a few dozen supporters of President Nicolás Maduro and several government ministers congregated in front of the Attorney General’s office in an event deemed as “Venezuelans against fascism.”

Both government officials and opposition figures pointed the finger at one another in the aftermath of Wednesday’s violence.

“Whoever goes out to provoke violence without a permit to demonstrate will be detained,” declared Maduro who also blamed a “neo-fascist upsurge” for planning to ouster him. As a result, the government has sought the detention of several opposition figures including Leopoldo Lopez who had an arrest warrant issued against him yesterday.

The accusations of a potential coup were strongly rejected by ex-presidential candidate Henrique Capriles in a press conference earlier today.

“The Maduro regime does not care about the lives of any of us.  This was made very clear yesterday and you all know that the immense majority of Venezuelans will not go out just to kill their brothers,” declared Capriles.

University students have been vocal in protesting against Maduro and his late predecessor, Hugo Chávez.  Recently they have demonstrated against problems such as high crime rates and Venezuela’s economic woes, and have also called for the release of demonstrators detained by police.  

Another group that has been vocal in protesting against the government are Venezuelan media outlets that have accused the Maduro regime of trying to stifle the press.  Yet it was a foreign-owned TV network, Colombia-based cable news station NTN24, that was targeted by the government when the Venezuelan telecommunications regulator remove NTN24 from the country’s airwaves on Wednesday night.  The Committee to Protect Journalists deemed that action as “repressive” and against one of the “few remaining independent voices in Venezuela.”

Video Source– AFP via YouTube

Online Sources –; Committee to Protect Journalists; The Guardian; El Universal; La Patilla; El Nacional; El Mundo;; New York Daily News

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