35 Dead, 850 arrested in Venezuela protests, NGOs say
The anti-government protests that have rocked Venezuela in the past week have left 35 people dead and 850 others under arrest, non-governmental organizations said Monday.
Rafael Uzcategui, the head of the Provea human rights organization, said in a press conference that his group had the names, locations and other information related to the killings of 35 people across the South American country.
The figures were gathered with assistance from the Venezuelan Social Conflict Observatory (OVCS), Uzcategui said, adding that most of the deaths occurred in Caracas, where 10 people died.
Eight people were killed in Bolivar, a southern state on the border with Brazil, and four in the central state of Portuguesa, the Provea head said.
“These are people who are all from poor areas, which reflects the zeal with which the worst-off communities in our country are being repressed. In addition, all the people have died as a result of (shots) from firearms,” Uzcategui said.
Provea blamed the government’s Special Action Forces (FAES) for the killings, saying that the units operate in poor areas with the “logic of war and the logic of extermination.”
The Foro Penal rights group, for its part, said most of the arrests were made in poor areas, where the majority of protests have occurred since last week.
“Since (Jan.) 21, we have counted 850 arrests of people who took part in demonstrations,” Foro Penal director Alfredo Romero said.
On Jan. 23, the head of the opposition-controlled Parliament, Juan Guaido, proclaimed himself Venezuela’s interim president.
Parliament considers Maduro an illegitimate president and its position has been backed by numerous foreign governments.
The US, the European Union and many of Venezuela’s neighbors dismissed Maduro’s re-election victory last May as fraudulent because most of Venezuela’s opposition boycotted the balloting.
Maduro was sworn in on Jan. 11 following his controversial re-election.
In the Americas, several countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Chile, have recognized Guaido, while Mexico, Cuba and Bolivia maintained their support of Maduro, as did Russia, China and Turkey.
On Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his government would officially recognize Guaido’s legitimacy unless the current government called a new election within eight days.
“Spain gives Nicolas Maduro eight days to call an election and if it doesn’t occur, we will recognize Juan Guaido as president,” Sanchez said during a press conference in Madrid.