Chavista Governor Turns On Maduro, Calls for End to State Violence in Venezuela
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's violent repression of student protesters has been so egregious that socialist members of his own party are turning against him. A longtime Party member and governor of one of the more afflicted regions of Venezuela called for the freedom of Leopoldo López and an end to violence on Monday.
In a report titled "State Repression Opens the First Fissures in the Chavista Front," Argentine news outlet Infobae reports that Táchira Governor José Gregorio Vielma Mora delivered a speech to his constituents officially distancing himself from the government this Monday, despite being a member of Maduro's party and a lifelong Chavista. Vielma Mora allied himself with a young Hugo Chávez in the 1980s, long before Nicolás Maduro was on the scene.
"I do not agree with keeping Leopoldo López prisoner," Vielma Mora told his constituents, referring to the leader of the opposition Popular Will party whose arrest triggered the current wave of violent suppression of opposition. López is being charged for arson and conspiracy--murder and terrorism charges were dropped--but is being held in a military facility despite the common-criminal nature of his indictment. Vielma Mora added that he was "against treating a protest with violence. Here no one is authorized to exert force... I am not a part of the regime; I was elected by the citizens of Táchira."
The speech followed a radio interview in which, according to Miami-based El Nuevo Herald, Vielma Mora claimed that Maduro's increased militarization of his state was "a grave mistake" and "an unacceptable excess." "I am very against it; it bothered me very much; it was unnecessary to have to pass military airplanes over San Cristóbal," Vielma Mora said of his state's biggest city, which was among the first to lose Internet access during the protests.
For much of last week, Vielma Mora's Twitter feed consisted of pleas to protesters to stop burning garbage on the streets and obstructing traffic (photo evidence shows that violent acts like burning items in the street were the work of armed Chavista gangs, not the protesters). However, as news spread of the speech he delivered, it appeared that the governor began to backtrack on his statements:
"I am with the revolution, I don't know how grave my words were. I assume [responsibility for them] one by one, I did not mean to cause a disturbance or hurt the Revolution," reads the first tweet. "Malevolent rumors surface on social media to disparage our unrestricted commitment with Peace, with the Party and the Revolution," reads the second.
San Cristóbal was among the cities most damaged by Maduro's repression, losing Internet access for hours at a time and becoming the source of many graphic videos of state violence. Monday, for example, a camera caught state police beating protesters with sticks on the street (warning: graphic video):