By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- A young man was killed Friday protesting against the increasingly embattled administration of Nicolas Maduro, as U.S. President Donald Trump pledged his support to the cause of democracy in Cuba and Venezuela.
"We know that it is best for America to have freedom in the hemisphere, whether in Venezuela or Cuba, and where the people have the freedom to live out their own dreams," Trump said during a speech in Miami where he reversed parts of President Barack Obama’s policy of opening towards Cuba and its communist regime, which he also accused of fostering “chaos” in Venezuela.
Under Chavez since 1999 and under Maduro since 2003, Cuba and Venezuela established unprecedented cooperation, which translated into Cuba receiving some 100,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil a day in exchange of the Caribbean island nation sending up to 100,000 cooperation workers at some point, a figure which is now closer to 20,000, and that was said by the Venezuelan opposition to include spies and torturers amongst its teachers and doctors.
Meanwhile, the violent protests against the Venezuelan President that began more than two months ago continue with increasingly deadly results.
The Attorney General’s Office said Thursday 73 Venezuelans have been killed during protests, looting and affiliated events since April 1st, when a Constitutional crisis came to a head and resulted in mass street demonstrations.
However, a tally being kept by the Latin American Herald Tribune
has it that at least 90 -- demonstrators the vast majority of them -- have died during demonstrations.
On Thursday alone, two students protesting the Maduro regime, one 19 and another only 20 years old, were killed in what appears to be a ramping up of repression led by “colectivos”, the pro-Maduro supplied biker gangs that are beyond the law.
Nelson Arevalo, 23, was shot in the neck and killed during protests in Central Venezuela’s Lara state. A Twitter account affiliated with demonstrators “Soldado de Franela” (“T-Shirt Soldier” or “Soldier in a T-Shirt”, as young protesters are called in Venezuela) said in a post that Arevalo’s street name was “Dominic”, while other users published pictures of him wearing a gas mask. “Another companero fallen”, “Soldado de Franela” said of Arevalo’s demise.CLAP AND COLECTIVOS
Fear of “colectivos” runs deep, particularly in working-class neighborhoods that used to support the government but have gone to the opposition since the 2015 legislative elections. Says “Carlos” a 23-year old tattoo artist from Western Caracas: “Where I live, nobody is for Maduro, but we don’t protest, shut down the street like that or bang empty pots, because the colectivos have the run of the place. It would be foolish, even useless.”
Instead of protesting, “Carlos” tries to focus on the CLAP boxes of subsidized food the government sells to him for a little more than $1 once every other month. They don’t carry any animal protein, only carbs, but the latest one came with two kilos of powdered milk for his young son, who is a little over one year old.
People have been denied access to CLAP for protesting Maduro as “colectivos” control distribution of that social benefit, while some neighbors reject the box outright, out of principle, and there are even some, “Carlos” says, who are simply “too poor to afford it”.
“They just don’t have the Bs 10,000,” he said Friday. “Heck, if you want, I’ll ask around, maybe there’s a spare you can buy, but it will cost you more than Bs 10,000,” he says, casually engaging in “bachaqueo”, selling price-controlled foodstuffs above their marked price, which could land him in jail for six years.