Violent opposition student protests have taken place in several Venezuelan cities in recent days.
The demonstrations over issues such as “insecurity” come as one sector of the right-wing opposition has called for supporters to “take to the streets” to seek a “way out” of the Venezuelan government.
The student protests began on Tuesday in San Cristóbal in the western state of Táchira, when two students were arrested for alleged breach of the peace during a demonstration. The students were released the following day.
In response, over the past three days small groups of pro-opposition students in Táchira and Mérida states have launched a series of protests. Belonging to the University of the Andes (ULA), among other institutions, the students have typically been masked and hooded, and do not display banners explaining the reasons for their protest.
Their actions so far have included blocking roads, burning tires, throwing stones at passers-by, stealing a truck, and in Mérida, attacking a government building project.
When interviewed, the students say they are protesting “insecurity”.
“[Venezuelan president Nicolas] Maduro and [socialist governor of Tachira state] Vielma Mora arrest and assassinate us students that fight for life, meanwhile they arm delinquents so that they rob, rape and murder the people,” claimed Vilca Fernández, leader of the radical “Liberation 13” ULA student group.
The most violent action took place yesterday, when a group of up to seventy radical opposition students attacked the official residence of the socialist governor of Tachira state, Vielma Mora.
According to Mora and other sources, the students were armed with “stones, bottles and some kind of molotov bomb”. They allegedly destroyed a police sentry post, broke down the residence’s main gates, and threatened Vielma Mora’s wife, who was protected by police while she tried to calm the students.
Governor Mora also said that “some students” had turned up at his young children’s nursery with the intention of “taking them out and causing them harm”, however without success.
Mora’s wife, Karla Jimenez, claimed that the students’ aim in the attack was to “get hurt and appeal to CNN in protest” although she insisted that “we’re not going to fall for that political game”.
Vielma Mora and Karla Jimenez blame the actions on Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the right-wing Popular Will party, who they accused of giving “instructions” to the students. Lopez is leading a self-declared “radical” movement from within the opposition to seek an immediate “way out” of Nicolas Maduro’s government, and has demanded supporters to “go on to the streets”.
Many opposition leaders, such as Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles, don’t agree with Lopez’ strategy, referring to it “inopportune” and politically “suicidal”.
Leopoldo Lopez denied any involvement in the violent student protests, stating, “I don’t have detailed information about what’s happening in Tachira, but I can say that if there’s an accusation by governor Vielma Mora, creating tension that’s very far from dialogue…that could be the origin of the tension”.
The student protests come after a group of opposition supporters attacked the Cuban baseball team in Margarita on Sunday, calling on them to “go home”.
Today Governor Mora stated that a total of 12 police had been injured in the attack on his residence, and that authorities knew who the perpetrators were. The state governor also said he wanted “peace” in Tachira, and called for a solidarity gathering outside his official residence tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile President Maduro tweeted that those who had committed violent crimes during the protests would be “punished with the law”, and exhorted the wider population not to “fall for the provocation of hate-filled minorities that want to deviate us from the construction of the homeland and fill the country with chaos”.