A mob of socialists protesting across from Venezuela’s National Assembly pelted journalists with rotten tomatoes and set off fireworks in protest of the new opposition-controlled legislature.
“A group of supporters of the government attacked journalists with tomatoes and fireworks,” the Venezuelan news outlet Tal Cual notes. While some witnesses say it was unclear whether the group was protesting the journalists themselves or the new legislators, Venezuelan journalists posting to Twitter had the red stains of proof on their clothing that they were, in fact, the targets of the aggression.
“Upon our arrival to the Assembly (and I refer to the press) the Chavistas threw tomatoes and shot off fireworks. A show of tolerance,” journalist Álex Vásquez tweeted.
AHORA: Periodistas y presentes son atacados con tomates por grupos apostados alrededor de la Asamblea Nacional. pic.twitter.com/JzKfGs0pna
— Christopher Abreu (@AbreuReport) January 13, 2016
En esta cantidad lanzan tomates oficialistas en La Ceiba a la prensa y diputados pic.twitter.com/86gAPVQyem
— Dayimar Ayala Altuve (@Dayidayi) January 13, 2016
— Efecto Cocuyo (@EfectoCocuyo) January 13, 2016
Tomates arrojados en la AN, esq. de San Francisco. GNB custodia y grupos chavistas amedrentan a “infiltrados” pic.twitter.com/kWQ2hGwORM
— Ernesto J. Tovar (@ernestojt) January 13, 2016
It does appear that some in the crowd were aiming for legislators as they walked into their workplace.
— Mariely Márquez (@PeriodistaMarie) January 13, 2016
Extreme aggression against journalists by supporters of Venezuela’s socialist regime has become increasingly common under President Nicolás Maduro, and has become a staple of the coverage of the Venezuelan anti-socialist opposition’s sweeping victory in the December 6 elections. Last week, reporter Eduardo Ríos and photographer Antonio Posteraro were beaten by a group of colectivos, the vernacular term for armed Chavista gangs known to roam city centers and attack protesters. Instead, they attacked the journalists, who work for La Patilla, as they attempted to cover the swearing-in ceremony for the nation’s legislature. Ríos was taken to the hospital but returned to work the next day, covering the opposition leadership’s removal of Hugo Chávez iconography from the legislature floor.
The minority party – the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) – winning a majority number of seats in the legislature for the first time in 17 years has triggered a political crisis from the nation’s Socialist Party (PSUV). After a failed attempt at creating a parallel “Communal Parliament” to govern over the National Assembly, a move widely dismissed as unconstitutional, the nation’s Supreme Court ruled that the National Assembly was void and all attempts at passing bills would be considered “null” until three of the MUD’s representatives were expelled from the legislature. The socialist government alleges that the three representatives – Nirma Guarulla, Julio Haron Ygarza, and Romel Guzamana – won their elections as a result of fraud, though officials have not publicly issued any such evidence. The opposition has alleged, on the contrary, that the government committed a number of fraudulent acts on election day that prevented other candidates from winning their campaigns.
The three opposition lawmakers barred by the Supreme Court presented a letter to the legislature Thursday stating they will step down from their seats to allow the legislature to function. “We completely reject that ruling,” they wrote, though noting that their resignation will “help free parliament from the institutional ambush they (the government) want to lead it into.”