By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS – Venezuela’s ruling PSUV party said Tuesday it would “rule this fatherland forever,” amidst the most violent anti-government street protests seen since 2014.
At least eight demonstrators were injured as thousands of Venezuelans converged on the capital of Caracas to demonstrate against the increasingly embattled rule of President Nicolas Maduro.
Opposition lawmakers were teargassed, government-affiliated “colectivo” gangs took potshots at marchers and journalists were attacked at protests meant to denounce maneuvers to place the elected opposition-dominated legislative National Assembly power under the control of the government-packed Supreme Court.
The concentration took place in spite of the government placing all roads leading to Caracas -- from Tazon in the West to Guarenas in the East -- under military control. In Caracas, twelve subway stations in three metro lines were shut down since Monday night as the government sought to block opposition attendance. The National Guard and Police established roadblocks in key choke points for marchers, who were trying to reach the seat of the opposition-controlled National Assembly in downtown Caracas.
And yet, in spite of all the measures, by 9:30 a.m. the Francisco Fajardo crosstown highway, Caracas’ main thoroughfare, was already under the control of demonstrators, marching on the asphalt from Altamira to Plaza Venezuela.“RULE FOREVER”
As is its custom since Maduro’s mentor and predecessor, Hugo Chavez, was alive and running the country, “chavismo”, the ideological current Chavez helped fund, staged a counterdemonstration, attended by civil servants (under threat of dismissal) and the chavista faithful.
“We will rule the fatherland forever and always”, said pro-Maduro lawmaker Diosdado Cabello during a speech at the counterdemonstration.
“We swear to you,” Cabello, who is also a founding member and vice president of the PSUV ruling party, said. “They [the opposition] will not be able to remove President Maduro.”
Cabello then led the counterdemonstrators in a chant: “De arriba a abajo, OEA para el carajo,” which can be politely translated as: “top to bottom, OAS can go to hell.”
The Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council chastised the Maduro administration Monday for attempting to dismantle the National Assembly legislative through the use of the executive-controlled Supreme Court and has repeatedly threatened to trigger the Inter American Democratic Charter against the Maduro regime.
The Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, meanwhile condemned the use of tear gas, gunfire, rubber bullets and repression against Tuesday's peaceful demonstrations in Venezuela.
What happened today in Caracas, Almagro said, "leads me to condemn in the strongest terms the brutal repression carried out by the Government of Venezuela against demonstrators in the streets of the Venezuelan capital."
"It is absolutely unacceptable that the authoritarian lawlessness that has led the Venezuelan government to abandon democracy through a self-imposed coup d'etat, and to place itself outside the Inter-American constitutional legality, has once again turned itself against its own people in repression," Almagro said.
"As Secretary General of the Organization of American States, I am once again obliged to demand that the Venezuelan government immediately stop violating the rule of law, reestablish democracy, recognize the civil and political liberties of the people, and immediately end this repression."