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Government paramilitaries attack Venezuela national assembly
Published on July 7, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Opposition lawmaker Armando Armas lies on the ground covering his head as pro-government militias attack lawmakers and National Assembly employees, in Caracas, July 5, 2017. Photo: VOA News

By Caribbean News Now contributor

CARACAS, Venezuela -- During a special meeting held on Wednesday by Venezuela’s National Assembly to celebrate the 206th anniversary of the country's declaration of independence, groups of government paramilitaries, known as colectivos, armed with sticks and pipes, some brandishing knives and firearms, broke into the grounds of the legislature and violently attacked lawmakers and staff.

Workers, journalists and deputies were practically kidnapped by the paramilitary groups associated with the regime. Several members of the National Assembly were injured, some suffering deep lacerations to the head and face.

Officials and journalists were also beaten. The Bolivarian National Guard, charged with providing security for the legislative power, reportedly did not intervene to stop the violence.

The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro strongly condemned the attack, highlighting that attacks on democratic institutions are the very essence of a dictatorship.

"The unconstitutional and illegal actions against the National Assembly that took place this Wednesday directly serve the process of institutional weakening the country is suffering," he said.

"Today should have been a time to reflect on the history of the country and the bonds that unite the people of Venezuela, instead the government has chosen yet again to use violence to silence dissent and ordered a premeditated attack on the very institution that is the symbol of democratic popular representation – the Venezuelan National Assembly,” Almagro said.

The OAS secretary general added that "when the voice of the people is silenced with weapons and violence it is because nothing remains of democracy. The use of terror against citizens and institutions reveals a systematic repression the only purpose of which is to ensure the government remains in power."

According to Almagro, "The regime intends to establish the institutional violence of the state in a dirty war against the people including one or more deaths per day, as if it were the 'new normal'."

"The Inter-American and international community must not accept this. This is not a question of policy issues, but of non-negotiable values and principles. This supposed 'new normal' should not be accepted by anyone," he concluded.

Venezuela has been gripped by a political and economic crisis for months. Daily street protests against the Maduro government often explode into violence between pro- and anti-government marchers. Nearly 100 people have been killed.

President Nicolas Maduro has called an election on July 30 for members of a special assembly to rewrite Venezuela's constitution -- the only way, the president said, to fix the country's problems and end violence.

Opposition leaders proposed instead an unofficial referendum, which they said would give Venezuela's people a voice, to choose whether they want a new national charter. Maduro's call for a new constitution is a ruse, the opposition said, intended to tighten his grip on the country and move toward dictatorship.

Venezuela's economic collapse, caused by both plunging world energy prices and government corruption, has wreaked havoc on what was once a prosperous, oil-rich nation. Basic staples such as flour, bread, cooking oil and gasoline are in extremely short supply. Many Venezuelans routinely cross the borders into neighbouring Colombia and Brazil to buy food.

Maduro blames his country's woes on the United States and warns of civil war if the OAS intervenes.
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