Right-Wing Opposition Violence Reaches New Low in Venezuela

Venezuela suffered through a terrorist attack. But much of the world has remained silent, writes RICHARD IRONS

Right-wing opposition violence against the democratically elected government of President Nicolas Maduro reached a new low on Tuesday 27 June when a policeman piloting a stolen helicopter fired shots and dropped grenades in an attack on the Interior Ministry and the Supreme Court in Caracas.

The pilot has been identified as Oscar Alberto Perez, an inspector with Venezuela’s largest national police agency, responsible for criminal investigations and forensic services.

In the first attack, he shot 15 times at the Interior Ministry building, where 80 people were still at work and a reception was being held on the rooftop terrace for a group of journalists celebrating the National Day of Journalists. He then flew the helicopter, stolen from a nearby airbase, to the Supreme Court headquarters, where judges and office staff were at work. In this second attack further shots were fired and at least four Israeli-made grenades of Colombian origin thrown, two of which were aimed at National Guard agents guarding the building. Fortunately there were no casualties.

The attacks were clearly motivated by political opposition to the Government. The helicopter carried a banner bearing the words ‘350 Libertad’ in reference to article 350 of the Bolivarian Constitution. Opposition forces are attempting to invoke this article to stop the establishment of a National Constituent Assembly, called to draft a new constitution which will subsequently require approval via a national referendum. Elections to the Constituent Assembly, which the right wing opposition at first called for but is now boycotting, are taking place next month.

In addition, a series of videos were posted at the same time as the attacks to Perez’s Instagram showing him reading a statement, surrounded by several men in military uniform, masked and carrying machine guns.

Speaking to camera, Perez announced that “we are a coalition between military functionaries, police functionaries, and civilians in search of harmony and against this criminal and transitory government.” He also demanded the immediate resignation of President Maduro and the convening of “general elections”.

Denouncing the incident, the Minister of Communication and Information Ernesto Villegas has affirmed that “these types of terrorist attacks will not detain the Constituent Assembly due on July 30.”

He also revealed that the pilot is being investigated for his links to the US Embassy in Caracas and the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as for his links to a former justice minister, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, who is being investigated for alleged ties to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Security forces located the abandoned helicopter in a forest in Vargas state a day after the attacks, but the pilot has not yet been detained. The Justice Minister Nestor Reverol has requested an Interpol red alert for his capture.

For the Venezuelan government, this assault represents a ramping up of right-wing, anti-government protests often with an anti-democratic ‘regime change’ agenda. These violent protests aim to topple the legitimate elected government and have led to 86 deaths to date.

President Maduro condemned the terrorist attack and demanded that the opposition MUD coalition should do likewise, without result at the time of writing. Some right-wing opposition supporters, however, have backed Perez, expressing their gratitude on social media, with several calling the police officer a “hero.”

Maduro has also called on the political parties grouped together under the so-called Roundtable of Democratic Unity, as well as the Catholic Church hierarchy and other sectors of Venezuelan society, to condemn these acts and to disavow the use of violence once and for all.

Internationally, the terrorist attack has been censured by a number of countries, including 17 African nations and Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Palestine and Turkey.

President Eva Morales of Bolivia condemned on Twitter what he called “the armed attacks by the coup-plotting right-wing against the Supreme Court of Justice and Venezuelan democracy.” In an official communiqué, the Bolivian Foreign Ministry called on political forces in Venezuela to re-initiate dialogue efforts stalled since late 2016 to de-escalate the violence, while calling on the international community “to forcefully reject this criminal act which is part of an insatiable and reckless conspiracy whose objective is to erode Venezuela’s democratic institutions through violence.”

Similarly, the progressive government of Lenin Moreno in Ecuador has condemned the attack and called for the “peaceful resolution of conflicts, non-intervention in the internal affairs of countries and the rejection of destabilization attempts”.

In contrast, the US, Canada and European countries have so far been silent about the attack, despite being willing to quickly condemn terrorist attacks in other countries.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada angrily noted that “in Europe we have still not received the first reaction. Spain has not even bothered to pick up the phone to condemn this attack… We are still waiting for a reaction from countries of the Organization of American States, Mexico, [and] Argentina.”

He added: “how can we believe these countries that defend human rights [one day] and the next they pretend to have dementia? There is a campaign of hostility against Venezuela and the best example of that is what has happened today: they do not care about Venezuelans.”

 

This article was originally published by the Morning Star at: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-c6a4-Venezuela-Where-is-the-condemnation