CARACAS – A new round of protests rocked Venezuela on Monday, during which seven soldiers were injured in an explosion on a street in Caracas, amid the Constituent Assembly election campaigns convened by the Government and the July 16 referendum called by the opposition.
The street protests ended Monday with at least nine members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) injured and an undetermined number of casualties among opposition supporters.
A GNB motorcycle patrol unit was hit by an explosive Monday on an avenue in Caracas, a moment which reporters were able to report live at the scene.
GNB General Sergio Rivero later claimed that the reporters actually knew of the incident but did not inform the police.
Rivero told state television channel VTV “they accommodate everything to make the best shot at the moment the explosion takes place and immediately there is one of the journalists who begins to narrate about the attack.”
Information Minister, Ernesto Villegas, also confirmed through his Twitter account that “Seven GNB injured after explosive attack in #TrancazoTerrorista.”
The “trancazo” refers to a massive cut of streets, a measure that the opposition has taken as a new form of protest combining with mass marches.
At the time of the explosion, dozens of young demonstrators threw stones at the police, who were, with tear gas and rubber bullets, trying to prevent the opposition from blocking the Francisco Fajardo Expressway, the main traffic line in Caracas.
Both Villegas and Rivero also confirmed there were two other agents injured from bullets in La Tahona in eastern Caracas and San Antonio, a neighborhood on the outskirts of the capital.
The GNB, together with the Bolivarian Police, is in charge of controlling the opposition protests against President Nicolas Maduro that have shaken Venezuela for more than three months.
According to the Office of the Prosecutor, a total of 91 people have lost their lives in these pro- and anti- government protests.
President Nicolas Maduro and other officials have praised the police for their work and accused opposition leaders of “terrorism” for “instigating violence.”
However, General Antonio Benavides, predecessor of General Rivero, was summoned by the prosecutor’s office as he was charged with alleged human rights abuses.
The Public Prosecutor also charged on Monday the head of the GNB in the Parliament, Colonel Bladimir Lugo, for a recent attack on opposition deputies and announced that the prosecution is conducting 43 other criminal investigations against state agents for robbing the demonstrators.
According to the prosecution, military agents “have stripped motorcycles, cell phones, valuables and other objects from people participating in demonstrations.”
On July 16, a plebiscite planned by the opposition will be held, which is set to ask the citizens if they agree with the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) convened by Maduro.
“It is very clear that what we are going to decide this Sunday is mandatory for the Maduro regime, for the National Armed Forces (and) for all public powers,” opposition deputy Luis Florido told reporters.
The election for the National Constituent Assembly is scheduled for July 30 but the opposition denied its constitutionality, just as the government has with the July 16 referendum.
The Episcopal Conference also Monday asked Maduro to give up his attempt to elect a body that, in the opinion of the bishops, will not serve to solve the food and medicine shortage nor the current political crisis.
In addition, it is “urgent,” according to the bishops, that Maduro recognizes “the autonomy of all public authorities” and especially the Parliament and the Attorney General, the two institutions that the government has accused of conducting a coup.
The Episcopal Conference sent this letter the day after calling the Maduro government a “dictatorship.”