16 dead in Venezuela as violent repression takes place nationwide
By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- A veritable election-day bloodbath began Sunday when a candidate for the Constituent Assembly was murdered inside his house in the hours leading to a polemical election in Venezuela, which the opposition and many countries in the world have ruled fraudulent, and with which embattled President Nicolas Maduro hopes to ditch the present Constitution and write a new one.
The Attorney General’s Office confirmed the Saturday night death of would-be Constituent Jose Felix Pineda inside his house in Bolivar state, one of 545 possible delegates that Maduro hoped would help him write a new Constitution. But election-day violence was only beginning.
By Sunday afternoon, the Attorney General's office was saying three had been killed in election day, but NGO Provea said the total tally of fatalities for Saturday-Sunday violence totaled 10, as neighbors took to the streets to protest and resist against a vote some 80% of Venezuelans reject. And by LAHT's numbers, the body count was up to 16.
A National Guard convoy in Altamira was attacked by an IED Sunday in Altamira, as they were moving to attack an anti-Maduro demonstration. No guards were killed but several were injured and at least five motorcycles destroyed.
This is the second known instance of National Guard, which is being investigated for human rights violations, being attacked with an IED in the area this month.
Even President Maduro avoided being seen out and about: he voted at 6 a.m., only a couple of blocks from the Miraflores Presidential Palace and with only one reporter from the government present.
His “carnet de la patria”, the “fidelity card” his government uses to control social benefits for holders, didn’t work, giving an error message that read “this person does not exist” and generating countless memes that will no doubt live a long life in social media.
In spite of the deadly violence, the government said the election was going well. The head of the Maduro-controlled CNE electoral board, Tibisay Lucena, said “99% of the population is voting”, an extraordinary remark considering that general elections in Venezuela tend to register an abstention rate of around 40%.
Pro-Maduro lawmaker Hector Rodriguez said Sunday will provide Maduro and chavismo with “historic results”. The President is hoping for atleast 8 million votes to surpass the votes against the Constituent Assembly by the opposition two weeks ago. And analysts such as Antonio Gil Yepez, head of polling firm Datanalisis, estimate he would get 3 million, tops.
But whatever the outcome, the election-day violence registered in Sunday’s Constituent Assembly elections (which already Colombia and Peru have vowed not to recognize) has had historic results. At least in terms of violence.