CARACAS – A march to the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) in Caracas, rallied by the opposition as a show of support for the 33 judges designated by the National Assembly legislature, was blocked on Saturday by security forces, which led demonstrators to clash with police and military units.
Demonstrators were headed for the TSJ when they were stopped just a few meters (yards) from where they started by the militarized Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), which turned the marchers back with tear gas bombs
GNB agents in the Chacao municipality, an opposition bastion on the east side of Caracas, clashed with a group of youths known as “the resistance,” who defended themselves with homemade shields, then went on the offensive hurling blunt objects at the agents.
Opposition lawmaker Miguel Pizarro posted a video on social networks denouncing the “repression in Chacao” with “tear gas bombs shot at demonstrators along the expressway from armored cars,” which then blocked their way.
Lawmaker Angel Medina reported on his Twitter account the “powerful repression” on the Francisco Fajardo Expressway where it goes through Chacao.
“Our people in peaceful protest attacked by the dictatorship,” the same message added.
The opposition had announced it would march to the Supreme Court of Justice to express its backing for the 33 judges designated Friday by the National Assembly, while not recognizing some 30 judges designated in 2015 by a legislature that at the time had a Chavista majority.
The marches started out from several points around Caracas at approximately 1:00 pm, and were replicated in cities like Barquisimeto and Maracaibo in the interior of the country, and on Margarita island in the state of Nueva Esparta.
Some demonstrators were wounded on Saturday in the clashes, particularly in Barquisimeto, the western state of Lara, where photographer Luis Diaz of the daily La Prensa Lara “was savagely beaten by the GNB, which seized his camera and photography materials,” the National Press Workers Union (SNTP) said.
The union disseminated on Twitter a photo of Diaz hospitalized together with the message: “2 rib fractures on the right costal after beating given him by GNB troops.”
Wounded in a Caracas demonstration was violinist Willy Arteago, famous in Venezuela for going to the marches playing his violin; he was hit by buckshot in the face.
Since last April 1, Venezuela has experienced a wave of anti-government protests that exploded when the TSJ was given the functions of the legislature, in a series of decisions later partially revoked, but which included the possibility of stripping lawmakers of their immunity.
At least 100 people have died in violent episodes related to the protests, which have often turned into clashes with security forces.