The ruling socialist party has started to crack down on opposition within Venezuela’s slums in the most brutal way possible. Historically, these are the people who have been the base of support for Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro. When Chavez began his socialist spending spree supported by high oil prices, it was the people in the slums who benefitted. Now that socialism has cratered and resulted in hyperinflation, these same people are suffering and have turned on Maduro. Sunday, Reuters reports that a government police force designed to fight terrorism is being used to murder and terrorize opposition targets, shooting men and women dead in the streets.
On Jan. 22, according to residents, an unmarked pickup truck mounted with speakers drove through Jose Felix Ribas, a district within Caracas’ sprawling Petare shantytown, broadcasting a message: “If you protest tomorrow, there will be consequences.”
Most said they took little heed. But six locals said the consequences became clear on Jan. 24 when FAES officers pulled a 23-year-old mother, the cousin of an alleged gang leader, from her house and shot her dead. A church was sprayed with bullets. One man was executed after being handcuffed inside a vehicle, residents said.
The government claims it is simply going after gang members but the extra-judicial killings involve no evidence and no exchanges of gunfire, just executions that observers believe are connected to protests.
Rights groups accuse the government of using the FAES to raid Venezuelans’ homes after they return from protests, with the help of tip-offs from supporters. Authorities have arrested more than 900 protesters since Jan. 21, the rights groups say.
Jose Pinto, head of the Revolutionary Tupamaro Movement, a militant group that backs Maduro, told Reuters he and other so-called “colectivos” were expanding their networks of informants.
They alerted police to “suspicious activity” before the Jan. 23 protests, Pino said, sending them images and addresses of suspected “right-wing conspirators,” which he said led to raids.
The FAES came to the Jose Felix Ribas slums for four days in a row. They asked a man named Yohendry Fernandez if he had a criminal record. When he said yes, they shot him in the chest. This isn’t police work, it’s state terrorism. If you want desperate people to stay home and not protest the government, you make them fear for their lives.
A group called the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence says it believes 43 deaths are attributable to these government kill squads since January 22nd but there may be more. End-stage socialism is a bloody business.
Here’s a CBS report on the situation. It’s a decent primer but doesn’t touch on the government kill squads.