Some of you may have heard about whatâ€™s been going on in Venezuela of late. As a Venezuelan artist and member of Dutty Artz, I wanted to provide some updates as to what has been going on on-the-ground. I recently came back to Brooklyn from two months at home and upon my return to New York, these protests erupted. While my body is here, my heart is in Venezuela. While the situation is complex and multi-layered, here is a dispatch from what has happened since the start of the protests:
Almost a week ago on the Feb 12th, on the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, students took the streets of Venezuela’s main cities to protest against the capture and torture of students imprisoned for protesting in Merida weeks ago. Opposition Leaders joined the the student protest and many many more people did so too.
Students took to protest because of overwhelming sentiments that the future of Venezuela is bleak- Venezuelans are faced with both an economic and social crisis: levels of violence, including homicides, are at an all time high and people are scared to go out of their houses, Â there is chronic scarcity of basic goods like toilet paper, harina pan (cornflour for arepas) and various medicaments, and now we are faced with large scale media censorship as the state tries to control outside perceptions of the Venezuelan protests.
People are fed up; protest signs and social media posts from protesters say things like: “Mom I went to fight for Venezuela, if I don’t come back I left with her.â€ Â These protest were peaceful and the students and people who marched with them were not armed, but riot police have responded with force. The government throughout the years has illegally but publicly armed paramilitary groups and these groups come out and agitate the crowds; Â in addition the National Guard has also been heavily attacking protesters.
In the protest on Wednesday, Feb 12th there were 3 deaths and over 69 wounded, plus over one hundred students were imprisoned. We are now on day 9 of protesting and being on the streets and these numbers have risen. In addition several reports of rape and human rights violation on the part of the National Guard who are detaining students has been reported. Although political leaders of the opposition have been trying to latch on to the student movement and frame the protests for their own political agenda, for the most part the students on the streets are not following them; this is their fight and they are organizing this by themselves, with the sentiment of exhaustion at the political ping pong that all political parties have been playing. People want real solutions to economic and social issues, students want a future, and the lack of reliable political figures is a key issue we are facing as a nation of people.
What is really terrifying is the massive censorship that has exponentially increased since last week. While hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets last Wednesday, state owned national television made sure not to broadcast it. Â When Colombian network, NTN24, aired news of the protests and the deaths, the channel was abruptly taken off air and removed permanently from Venezuelan broadcasting. The state is also monitoring some social media, with twitter images having been blocked, but the hacktivist community has been very helpful in providing ways to hack through these blocks. However, as the majority of Venezuelans remain with access to internet and only to state portals of news, a lot of what is happening in Caracas and other cities is not spreading due to the censorship.
Yesterday 18F a massive march called by the opposition took place and a counterpart of the government did too. Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez gave himself to authorities of the government since they were holding him responsible for violent acts of last week, but on the government media says they took him to protect him from right wing extremist form the USA that wanted to kill him and frame the government. Ironically until earlier today the government referred to Leopoldo as a right winged fascist extremist.
We are very confused on whatâ€™s really going on and what are the hidden agendas. In Â the meantime the streets have gone to mayor caos, a lot of fire and streets burning, a lot more deaths, some cities have reported open fire between opposing sides, paramilitary groups â€œTupamarosâ€ Â shooting randomly at people of any side and terrorizing the streets while National Guard tanks have invaded private properties.
– Wed 19F 2:40 AM
Below are a list of resources that I find useful in parsing through the situation in Venezuela right now:
NTN24 slide show of todayâ€™s student and oppositionâ€™s march
English article in the Daily Beast
11 Images showing bloody protest in Venezulea
Teenage girl makes guard of the National Police cry
If you read Spanish, I recomment you follow @ panfletonegro Â and this website panfletonegro.com which for me has the best and most centered, good judgement articles. It’s a non-conformist-anarchist blog of literature, photograph and critic.
This article is from some days ago, I think this is already starting to happen.Â http://www.panfletonegro.com/v/2014/02/15/el-dia-en-el-que-catia-y-petare-se-unan/on march
Open letter to Venezuela from Ruben Blades