Venezuelan soldiers stormed San Cristóbal, a college city that has become the cradle of the opposition, early this morning. Civilians reported shootings and aggressive use of teargas to force protesters out of their buildings as they slept, and the military placed barricades around the city this morning to prevent anyone from leaving.
The images surfacing on Twitter early this morning showed a city under siege. “They really gave us some gas, like ever before, tonight in San Cristóbal,” wrote one resident on Twitter, “My house is inundated.” Another merely took a picture, in which National Guard soldiers can clearly be seen in a cloud of smoke. Reports of children and the elderly hurt by the teargas are rampant.
The smoke was just the start of the repression. While little video has surfaced from the city–internet providers have mysteriously stopped providing access–some has leaked, including this raw footage taken from a high rise of National Guard soldiers shooting at protesters:
While not many images of the repression made it online last night, one stormed social media and almost immediately became the most retweeted: an image of Venezuelan opposition women holding hands and standing before a tank, blocking its way:
— Angelly?Pernía (@AngellyPernia) March 10, 2014
San Cristóbal was not the only city to receive this treatment last night, but it is certainly the biggest. In the town of Cabudare, the National Guard stormed homes and arrested an unknown number of protesters last night in retribution for the burning of a government tank earlier in the day.
San Cristóbal remains under martial law, and residents awoke to the military tearing down barricades placed around the city in an attempt to block National Guard troops from reaching protesters.
The city, capital of the western state of Táchira that shares a border with Colombia, has been a hotbed of protests since the current uprisings began in mid-February. The governor of that state, fervent Chavista José Gregorio Vielma Mora, denounced Maduro’s armed invasion of his state and called for the liberation of opposition leader Leopoldo López. Residents there were also the first to deface a bust of Hugo Chávez in a town square.
Protests are expected to increase as the dire economic situation worsens. President Maduro implemented a full socialist rationing system today, in which residents are only allowed to buy certain quantities of food per day. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last week, Maduro described the country’s economic situation as “very strong” and assured viewers that, despite the rampant oppression, he “sleeps like a baby.”