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A Reuters Article that Might help Prevent Political Violence in Venezuela


A Reuters article from May 8 (Recriminations over post-vote violence stoke Venezuela tensions) does something that the international press has barely ever done in Venezuela. It actually quoted family members of the people killed by opposition supporters. According to the Maduro government, nine people were killed by Capriles supporters following the April 15 presidential election that Nicolas Maduro won by only 1.5 percentage points.

Reuters interviewed family members of three of the nine victims named by the government. The article stated, in part

In La Limonera, a "socialist city" Chavez created last year to house some 430 poor families in new tower-blocks, there is outrage at the violence and fear of more. Residents on motorcycles and soldiers now patrol the area, surrounded by middle-class homes.

"You may not agree with me, but you have no right to shoot me, set off rockets, or bang pots and pans every night while my kids are trying to sleep," said Oscar Canizales, 21, a resident who patrols on motorcycle.

When official results showed him narrowly losing, Capriles on the night of Sunday, April 14 called on supporters to demand a full recount by marching in the streets.

A day later, opposition protesters near La Limonera went to a state-run clinic staffed by doctors from Cuba who were hired through a Chavez-era oil-for-services deal.

Witnesses interviewed by Reuters said about 100 protesters surrounded the clinic for around two hours shouting slogans such as "Get out Cubans, we don't want you here," banging pots and pans in a rowdy "cacerolazo" protest.

Maduro sympathizers including hairdresser Rosiris Reyes and carpenter Jose Luis Ponce arrived to protect the clinic from harm, witnesses and relatives said. As the protest died down they began returning home, but never made it.

"From a Toyota, someone starting shooting and shouting opposition slogans. One of the bullets hit my mother in the back," said 15-year-old Yonylexis Reyes, who lives with two brothers in a small apartment decorated with the posters with the faces of Maduro and Chavez.

"She fell off the motorcycle and we took her to the hospital." Her mother died two days later.

Ponce was also shot while returning from the clinic, according to witnesses. A family member said one person was later wounded at his funeral by a shot fired from a neighborhood near La Limonera.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas several days later said Johny Pacheco, whom he identified as another "defender of the clinic," was shot in the head "without being robbed."

Local media quoted Pacheco's family saying he was in fact killed during an attempt to steal his car, a version also given by residents.

 

The article is a bit vague about who Jose Luis Ponce’s family blames for his death.  In fact, Ponce’s brother clearly blamed Capriles supporters in a televised interview.

Reuters felt obliged to also mention a brawl in which two “opposition parliamentarians were particularly badly hurt, one with a bloodied and bruised face, another with a fractured nose.”  Would Reuters have felt similarly obliged to “balance” an article mentioning deaths at the hands of government supporters with the bloody noses of pro-government politicians? One need only review articles about Judge Afiuni or, more recently, Tim Tracy, people who have only been arrested by the Venezuelan government, to get a conclusive answer.

You would never guess it from reading international press coverage, but the majority of Venezuelans killed in political violence since 1998 have been victimized by violent elements of the opposition. Hundreds of peasants alone have been killed since 2001 in crimes that implicate wealthy land owners vehemently opposed to land reform. It has taken media activism to get the liberal press to mention this at all.

This Reuters article is therefore deserving of praise despite its flaws. The victims of US allies are very rarely acknowledged as statistics, much less as real people with loved ones who remember them.

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