About forty arrested in Venezuela, including foreign journalists

Le Monde.fr con AFP- Published on 03.01.2014 at 05:52am.

About 40 people, among them eight foreigners, were arrested on Friday, February 28, in Caracas when hundreds of demonstrators clashed again against Venezuelan security forces. “The special operation of the National Guard in Altamira allowed the arrest of 41 (demonstrators), among them eight foreigners under suspicion of international terrorism”, informed the State’s TV station VTV.

According to a union of journalists, Italian photographer Francesca Commi from the local newspaper El Nacional, is among those being interrogated, as well as American photographer Andrew Rosati, from the Miami Herald, who was freed in about half an hour after being beaten “in the head and the abdomen by the National Guard”.

18 deaths in three weeks

Local authorities have not confirmed, nor given any details about the detentions that took place during last Friday’s violent clashes near Altamira Square, epicenter for daily demonstrations against the government, in what could be called the chic area of Chacao, in Caracas.

The demonstrators, most of them very young, some with their faces covered, threw a large barrage of Molotov cocktails against public order forces, which tried to disperse them with bursts of water and tear gas. Three people were said to be wounded.

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Protest against the government at Altamira Square, on February, 28.| REUTERS/TOMAS BRAVO

These student protests, backed by the opposition on issues such as insecurity and high cost of living, turn frequently at night into violent incidents and clashes with public order forces. In three weeks, such confrontations have left 18 dead and 261 wounded, according to an official report.

“33 Cases of cruel treatment and torture”

Friday’s protest began calmly with several hundreds of opposition students and journalists gathering to condemn human rights violations carried out by public order authorities during demonstrations against the government.

“We have registered and verified, and then submitted to the Public Defenders Office as well as the Public Prosecutor’s Office, thirty-three cases of cruel and inhumane treatment or tortures”, stated Alfredo Romero, president for the NGO Foro Penal Venezolano (Criminal Venezuelan Forum). This organization claims 722 people have been abusively arrested since February 9.

“The Public Prosecutor’s Office is not going to allow under any pretext the violation of human rights”, promised the Venezuelan Public Prosecutor, who announced 27 investigations had been opened.

Over 10 members of public order forces are behind bars, out of which five intelligence service agents have been accused for the murder with firearms of two young men —one from the opposition and the other a supporter of the government— on February 12, the day the demonstrations turned violent.

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Venezuelan opposition supporters in Florida on February 28. | AP/Javier Galeano

From Bogota, Colombia’s capital, the leading figure of the Venezuelan opposition, governor of the state of Miranda and former presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, criticized the government: “which talks about peace but suppresses” the demonstrations. He claimed fire cannot be “put out with gasoline”.

On Friday, US State Secretary John Kerry exhorted again the Venezuelan government to negotiate with the opposition, and then proceeded to announce the intention to work “closely with Colombia and other nations” to carry out “a sort of mediation” in Venezuela.

Original source: “Une quarantaine d´arrestations au Venezuela, dont des journalistes étrangers”. Le Monde.fr con AFP 01/03/2014. Le Monde. 1/03/2014..

Translated by #infoVnzla

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