By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro spoke Thursday of a “conspiracy” in the killing of anti-government demonstrator Fabian Urbina Monday, just as the death toll after 83 days of protest keeps growing, reaching 74 killed in demonstrations and related events.
Thursday’s tragic death is the first one taking place since the opposition (80% of the country, according to the latest polls) said it was disavowing the Maduro government, executive, Supreme Court, electoral board and all.
Maduro said Thursday he was ordering an investigation into the murder of Urbina, which will apparently be independent from the one former ally turned foe Attorney General Luisa Ortega launched Monday night. Ortega’s office already has three National Guard members in custody for the Urbina murder.
“I have ordered an investigation to see if there is a conspiracy behind all this,” Maduro said. “There were a lot of cameras in that place,” marveling at the fact that the National Guard “allowed their picture to be taken” and noting how “some videos were so well recorded.” Video and pictures of National Guardsmen opening fire on demonstrators the day Urbina was killed have gone viral.
Even more telling is the fact that, instead of Attorney General Ortega -- the inquiry will be led by Ombudsman Tarek William Saab, a Maduro ally, whose office has never conducted a criminal investigation.
The rift between Ortega and Maduro started showing in late March, when the AG accused the executive-controlled Supreme Court of trying of to usurp the functions of the opposition-dominated National Assembly.
After Maduro called a Constituent Assembly May 1st, the rift became a crack in the unified façade of “chavismo”, the political movement that has ruled Venezuela since 1999, with Ortega labeling the President’s initiative as unconstitutional and repeatedly trying to stop it by going before the completely Chavista-packed Supreme Court.DEATH TOLL RISES
Thursday afternoon, another young demonstrator – David Vallenilla, 22 - was killed in Caracas, Ramon Muchacho, mayor of the Chacao municipality reported via Twitter.
Video from the incident posted by all-news web TV site VivoPlay shows a young man approaching a fence alongside the Francisco Fajardo highway in Chacao by the “Francisco de Miranda” Air Force Base and being shot at close range by black-clad and masked security forces. VivoPlay identifies the shooters as National Guard, in what would be the second such incident of members from that force shooting and killing a demonstrator this week alone.
Some estimates by NGOs and local media have 94 demonstrators and security forces killed in demonstrations since April 1st, while the Attorney General’s Office last official figure was 74 killed since April 6th.