They keep getting caught…

It happened again yesterday. For the Nth time. A small but bellicose pro-government mob showed up at the Metropolitan City Hall (Alfredo Peña’s office) to block the last open entrance, leaving the Mayor and a bunch of opposition leaders he was meeting with stranded for hours. Then the Metropolitan Police showed up to clear them out. From there on end, it was the usual…tear gas and rubber bullets from the police, real bullets from the chavista crowd. What wasn’t usual, what makes my blood boil, is that one guy – apparently a bystander – was killed. Deaths don’t get any more pointless than his, or any more angering.

The chavista line was the predictable same old. To hear Desiré Santos Amaral (the chavista National Assembly member) tell the story, all that happened is that some dissident (chavista) PM officers decided to go protest peacefully outside Peña’s office when suddenly, for no apparent reason, the rest of the Policia Metropolitana decided to brutally repress them using violence. Desiré is adamant that it was Peña’s cops who did the shooting. The crowd can hardly be blamed for throwing a few rocks back at them faced with this fascist onslaught, could they? All the chavistas are towing this line…they don’t seem at all inconvenienced that it’s a demonstrable lie.

Why demonstrable? Because once again, they got caught. On camera. Doing what they accuse their opponents of doing. This time, it was a Channel 10 (Televen) cameraman who got “lucky,” getting footage of one of the dissident (chavista) PM officers using a cloud of tear gas as cover to unload his gun into Peña’s guys. (Note to chavista gunmen: Is it really so hard to refrain from shooting your guns when there are cameramen just feet away?! How stupid are you?) So the government’s line is, one more time, a sham. We should’ve gotten used to it by now. This time, the gunman wasn’t even wearing a ski-mask: his face was very clearly visible in the Channel 10 footage. But I’ll bet you anything he won’t be held accountable for this, bet you anything he won’t spend 5 minutes in jail for it. Not so long as el Comandante runs the country…

The riot went on for most of the afternoon and into the evening. 15 people took gunshots. One of Peña’s cops took a bullet to the stomach. A Channel 2 cameraman was shot (that’s the second time a Channel 2 cameraman has been shot by rioting chavistas in the last three months – high risk job! – but neither was seriously hurt.) Perhaps the most disturbing incident came at around 8 pm, when Peña went to the Lidice Hospital to visit the wounded and give his condolences to the family of the dead. A small crowd of Chavistas was there and they assaulted him, screaming “Fascist!” “Assassin!” and “Kill him!” as they tried to beat the crap out of the mayor. At one point he fell to the floor and the crowd literally tried to lynch him, kicking him in the face until three of his bodyguards managed to get him out of it. Worst of all, several of the people leading the crowd were National Assembly members – Iris Varela and Darío Vivas are clearly visible in the footage from the hospital. This whole atmosphere is terrifying – but what’s scariest is to think that someone like Iris Varela, someone who is now literally on the record trying to incite a crowd into lynching the Mayor of Caracas, that someone like her is part of the ruling clique here, that she sits in on high-level government meetings, that she has the president’s ear and plays a part in setting policy. It’s…it’s…deeply, deeply wrong.

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A journalist, political commentator and news obsessive, Francisco Toro is the Founder and Executive Editor of Caracas Chronicles.


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