By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was assaulted physically and verbally Tuesday night, the second such happening since September. Five young men, aged 15 to 20, were arrested for throwing hard objects at the President as he rode in the back of an open Tiuna military jeep.
A young man, reportedly only 14 years old, was killed by police action Tuesday night, at around the same time the President was being attacked, in the city of Barquisimeto, bringing the total of fatalities in protests to three since April 6th.
The last attack from the population came six months ago at an event in Villa Rosa on Margarita Island, when the President’s motorcade was attacked, forced to stop and Maduro had to dismount and flee the scene on foot, surrounded by people taking shots and him and hurling verbal abuse. Dozens were arrested because of Villa Rosa, including Braulio Jatar, the first journalist to post video of the event and who is still in prison to this day.
The assault against Maduro comes as both protests and repression are intensifying in Venezuela, to the point both actions are almost non-stop now: permanent demonstrations by the opposition and continuing, heavy-handed law enforcement -- and now government paid gangs known as "colectivos" against protestors.
Tuesday, Brayan Principal, only 14, was killed while protesting against the President in Barquisimeto, Lara state, according to a tweet by opposition lawmaker Alfonso Marquina and other sources. News of deaths in violent political confrontations are not routinely posted in mainstream Venezuelan media for fear of reprisals: the government has shut down more than 50 radio and television stations since 2007.THE HIGH-INCIDENT PRESIDENT
The bulk of Tuesday’s events was broadcast live by state television network Venezolana de Television Canal 8. The President is talking to the cameras while, behind him, Bolivar state governor Rangel alerts the security detail.
Soldiers on the move. Maduro getting on board the Tiuna jeep and starting to flee the event when objects start flying towards him. A bodyguard tries to swat debris from the President’s face and hits him instead.
The state television narrator tried to put a positive spin on the pandemonium, but he stutters: “Well, the President is now in union with the people, that’s what’s happening.” Not wanting to show more of the crowds attacking Maduro, state television replaced the feed with a cut to a statue of Independence hero Manuel Piar, whom Maduro was trying to commemorate. Then the screen went black.
Amateur video showed a spine-chilling coda: the President, still wearing his official sash, fleeing, holding unsteadily to the jeep’s roll-bar, one hand to his forehead where an object had struck him, half propped up by the men in his security detail.
Shouts of “Maldito! Maldito!” (Damn You! Damn You!) are clearly audible in a video posted by opposition lawmaker Americo de Grazia, a Bolivar state representative and avid Maduro critic.
National newspaper El Nacional said five young men were arrested, ages ranging from 15 to 20 years old. Meaning they were all born and/or raised under the rule of Maduro’s late mentor and predecessor Hugo Chavez, who took over in 1999.THE SECOND BATTLE OF SAN FELIX
On April 11th, 1817, Venezuelan general Manuel Piar beat Spanish Imperial troops in San Felix, Bolivar state, a major turning point in a war that had dragged on for several years by then. The victory made Piar a hero, so much so that jealous Venezuelan Liberator Simon Bolivar had him shot months afterwards, not very far from that eventful,
doomed battlefield. Several Venezuelan historians maintain that Bolivar and the mixed-blood Piar were half-brothers. Noted historian Manuel Caballero discusses the point in his book, “Piar: Caudillo de dos colores”.
Maduro was trying to commemorate the battle of San Felix, as a victory of a Venezuela united against an aggressive empire Tuesday night. Security was high, for the first time including Russian battle tanks.
Maduro had already on Sunday said he was not announcing his travel and public appearance plans for fear of an attack by the “crazy right wing”, which is one of the more polite ways the government refers to the opposition. “They want to harm me, personally,” Maduro said Sunday, during a similar event commemorating the “Casa Fuerte” Independence War hecatomb, where Spanish troops executed hundreds of Venezuelans.
“There are versions of the President being hit with eggs, bottles and rocks,” said radio personality Unai Amenabar commenting on the events Wednesday morning on his daily news and music show. “Whatever it was, it sure was some striking rejection the President experienced.”