CARACAS, Friday February 14, 2014 | Update

"Repressive" role of collectives is highlighted

Pro-government groups demand the end of impunity and punishment of "rioters"

Groups of armed bikers travelled across Caracas on Wednesday (Vicente Correale)
Friday February 14, 2014  09:36 AM
Two pick-ups stuffed with armed men and dozen bikers traveled last Wednesday across Candelaria streets, downtown Caracas. They were tracking opposition students who took part in the demonstration of the Youth Day. In case of finding some group of them, they would assail them. Most wore black shirts, black bullet-proof vests and black ski masks.

Inti Rodríguez, the media coordinator of human rights advocate Provea, relates that at 9:20 p.m. on Wednesday, about 20 subjects in black and ski masks, bullet-proof vests and long weapons kidnapped him at the entry of the metro station in Agua Salud, west Caracas. "They held me for 40 minutes; they hit me, checked my mobile phone, and queried about my role in Provea. Then, I listened to one commenting: ‘The minister told us to take it easy.' Some spoke like criminals, but the group commander spoke a police-style language," Rodríguez differentiates.

Sociologist Carlos Raúl Hernández explains that the so-called social collectives "are paramilitary groups; repressive mechanisms that at the sight of the international public opinion do not compromise the government. A difference is made if the guard or the police batter a student, or a student is found dead. These (paramilitary) groups are not directly linked to the government. One could say that they are spontaneous demonstrations of people and that there were violent acts in the streets or clashes among groups."

"Their role is repressing, hitting, intimating and being out of the State institutional command," he added.

He recalled that such groups "started to be used to hurl nasty substances at parliamentarians" during the first Congress of the so-called Bolivarian revolution. Later on, they "have been used to break up demonstrations."

On Wednesday, at 1:30 p.m., Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro said: "I urge the PSUV (ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela), UBCH (Chávez Battle Units), and collectives: beware of falling into the provocation of fascism."

Shortly after, National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello, when confirming the killing of Juan Montilla, the leader of the Revolutionary Secretariat of Venezuela," which gathers 97 collectives, sent a message from central Aragua state: "We ask the collectives of 23 de Enero for calm and good sense."

For Hernández, the fact that Cabello "has virtually begged collectives not to disband and listen to him shows their degree of autonomy."

Asking for punishment

During an interview on Thursday with EUTV, the head of Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), Alberto Carías, conceded that he was near the Attorney General Office on Wednesday to "defend democracy." However, he affirmed, "we were without arms."

For his part, Juan Contreras, a militant of Simón Bolívar Coordinator (CSB), lamented the murders recorded on Wednesday. "Some sectors stubbornly believe that by means of a coup they can tumble these 15 years of revolution," he said.

In his opinion, "impunity has caused a severe damage to the process."

The CSB member is positive that laws and institutions will punish opposition leaders Leopoldo López, María Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma for "rising such wave of violence with their remarks."

Translated by Conchita Delgado Rivas