The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence estimates there were 40 cases in 2014 of lynchings, usually defined as extrajudicial killings by mobs.
VALENCIA/CARACAS (Reuters) – Alexandra Ulmer and Diego Oré report: When a man they believed to be a thief sneaked into their parking lot in the Venezuelan city of Valencia, angry residents caught him, stripped him and beat him with fists, sticks and stones.
“The police can arrest criminals, but then the courts free them. As long as there’s no response from the state, lynchings will increase.”
— Elisio Guzman, the head of state police in the state of Miranda
They tied him up and doused him in gasoline, according to witnesses, in one of what rights groups and media reports say are an increasing number of mob beatings and lynchings in a country ravaged by crime.
That August night, as locals say is common, three people had sneaked into Valencia’s Kerdell residential block. In past such break-ins, thieves have made off with car tires, batteries and radios.
“President Nicolas Maduro’s administration often blames violence on political rivals seeking to sabotage the socialist government. Authorities have also accused foreign media of exaggerating crime in Venezuela.”
But this time, one resident spotted the trespassers and alerted other neighbors, according to the witnesses.
“‘Kill him, give it to him,’ they shouted,” recounted Trina Castro, 82, in this once middle-class and peaceful area that is now plagued with garbage and graffiti. One reads: “Get ready, thief, here we burn you. Regards, Kerdell.”
“I tried to stop the mob but the level of violence endangered anyone who opposed them,” said another witness, asking to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
The unconscious man, who was not torched, was evacuated and is now in the local hospital’s trauma ward, according to witnesses and Valencia’s police. The police said they had no further details and did not identify the man.
A source at the Interior Ministry, who asked to remain anonymous because the minister is the only person authorized to speak on the record, said it does not usually comment on cases under investigation. Venezuela’s state prosecutor’s office said it had not issued a statement on the incident. Read the rest of this entry »
Violent clashes flare in pockets of the country as citizens wait for hours for basics, such as milk and rice.
“In past years, when oil prices were high, Venezuela’s leftist government flooded markets with subsidized goods ranging from cooking oil to diapers. It gave citizens in border towns like La Sibucara not only access to cheap supplies, but also a source of income as many people trafficked products—including nearly free gasoline—to neighboring Colombia, drawing handsome profits.”
The incident was just one of numerous violent clashes that have flared in pockets around the country in recent weeks as Venezuelans wait for hours in long supermarket lines for basics like milk and rice. Shortages have made hunger a palpable concern for many Wayuu Indians who live here at the northern tip of Venezuela’s 1,300-mile border with Colombia.
“We are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot.”
—María Palma, 55, of La Sibucara
The soldiers had been deployed to stem rampant food smuggling and price speculation, which President Nicolás Maduro blames for triple-digit inflation and scarcity. But after they seize contraband goods, the troops themselves often become targets of increasingly desperate people.
“Food-supply problems in Venezuela underscore the increasingly precarious situation for Mr. Maduro’s socialist government, which according to the latest poll by Datanálisis is preferred by less than 20% of voters ahead of Dec. 6 parliamentary elections.”
“What’s certain is that we are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot,” said María Palma, a 55-year-old grandmother who on a recent blistering hot day had been standing in line at the grocery store since 3 a.m. before walking away empty-handed at midday.
“If people aren’t outside protesting, they’re outside standing in line for goods.”
—Marco Ponce, head of the Venezuela Observatory of Social Conflict
In a national survey, the pollster Consultores 21 found 30% of Venezuelans eating two or fewer meals a day during the second quarter of this year, up from 20% in the first quarter. Around 70% of people in the study also said they had stopped buying some basic food item because it had become unavailable or too expensive.
“They’re committing treason against our country, taking food and crossing the border.”
—National Guard Gen. Manuel Graterol
Food-supply problems in Venezuela underscore the increasingly precarious situation for Mr. Maduro’s socialist government, which according to the latest poll by Datanálisis is preferred by less than 20% of voters ahead of Dec. 6 parliamentary elections. The critical situation threatens to plunge South America’s largest oil exporter into a wave of civil unrest reminiscent of last year’s nationwide demonstrations seeking Mr. Maduro’s ouster.
“It’s a national crisis,” said Marco Ponce, head of the Venezuela Observatory of Social Conflict, noting that unlike the political protests of last year, residents are now taking to the streets demanding social rights. Read the rest of this entry »