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Caracas, Wednesday October 13 , 2004  
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Demonstrators opposed to "colonialism" knocked down the monument to the Discoverer
Christopher Columbus pulled down and hanged up
The bronze statue was torn out of its pedestal and dragged along the streets in an unprecedented act of vandalism (Photo: EFE)
The police corps of the Libertador Municipality of Caracas managed to rescue the statue from the vandals by throwing tear gas bombs and firing plastic bullets against them. But it was too late; people who, for worse, thought they were acting right, vandalized the Admiral, installed at Plaza Venezuela, north Caracas, in 1904



The commemoration of the "Day of the Indigenous Resistance," called this way under a decree President Hugo Chávez issued in 2000, ended on Tuesday with violent protesters -belonging to groups opposed to colonization- pulling down and hanging up the statue of Christopher Columbus, installed at Plaza Venezuela, north Caracas, in 1904.

The invitation to celebrate the "Day of the Indigenous Resistance" was published on web site, which subsequently praised the attack: "Just like the statue of Saddam in Baghdad, on this October 12, 2004, the statue of tyrant Columbus has fallen in Caracas," the web site said.

The attackers shouted slogans against the "old and new imperialism" of Spain and the United States. The protest started in the morning and extended beyond noon. Ironically, a man with a foreign accent pronounced the most flaming speeches.

Witnesses said that about 3:00 p.m., men and women climbed the monolith and "tied Columbus and the indigenous woman up with a very thick rope. Then they started pulling, until they knocked them down."

"Simón Bolívar Coordinator. Let's pull down the statue of Columbus. Get out!," reads a graffiti written on the monument pedestal.

The Admiral's statue was dragged all the way down to the Teresa Carreño Theater, where it was hanged up headfirst from a tree outside the building.

"Popular justice! Popular justice!", shouted over a loudspeaker the man with a foreign accent. Around 4 p.m., officers with the police corps of the Libertador Municipality of Caracas (Policaracas) temporarily closed the roads leading to the theater. They threw tear gas bombs and fired plastic bullets to break up the crowd.

National Guard troopers backed Policaracas, while the secret police (Disip) watched the events without intervening. Policaracas eventually rescued the statue.

Following the riots, Policaracas arrested five attackers involved in the vandalization of the monument. They were captured around Teresa Carreño Theater when they were "finishing up" the statue. They said they were going to present the statue to President Chávez. The violent attackers also caused material damages in the area.

The men arrested are José Freitas, William Escalona, Freddy Tabarquino, José Mella Valero, and John Becerra González. 

Translated by Maryflor Suárez

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