We are a group of nine people who just spent ten days in Venezuela on a delegation sponsored by the Task Force on the Americas and the School of the Americas Watch. We visited eight states and three capital cities as well as a number of smaller communities. We met with human rights groups, government officials including the government Ombudsman and top security officers, the secretary general of ALBA, members of the opposition, the US embassy, cooperatives, schools and agricultural initiatives.
We want to share what we experienced here which in many cases contradicts current reports of Venezuela in the mainstream and social media. We also want to call on readers to take action to support Venezuela’s sovereignty.
In spite of what the US media prepared us to expect, we were completely unimpeded by any expressions of violence or disruption of transit. We experienced a country where schools, businesses, transportation and services seem to be functioning at a normal pace. In fact, of 337 municipalities, only 18 have experienced incidents of violent protest. We are, however, aware that in the border states with Colombia and in some wealthy neighborhood incidents of violence continue to persist.
People on both sides of the political divide in Venezuela have been killed in the past month. While the media has focused almost exclusively on the tragic deaths of several at the hands of government security forces (who have been detained by the Venezuelan justice system), there has been almost no attention to the deaths of several government security forces at the hands of anti-government protesters. In addition, at least seven people have been killed by protesters for simply trying to pass by or remove road blocks in their communities, and a motorcyclist was decapitated by razor wire strung by protesters. Other deaths have been linked to the inability to get to hospitals due to anti-government road blocks. In one case a motorcycle taxi driver tried to remove a road block and was killed by a sniper from a nearby building. When the National Guard arrived, one of their members was killed by snipers from the same building. As the National Guard entered the building to detain the sniper, residents there tweeted photos and messages picked up by media to support accusations of government repression.