Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó denounced dictator Nicolás Maduro and his unofficial violent gangs, the colectivos, on Sunday following an incident on Saturday in which thugs opened fire on Guaidó at a rally.
The incident, in the city of Barquisimeto, resulted in one person, a 16-year-old child, being injured, and Guaidó himself emerged unscathed. Video on social media following the attack showed significant damage to the vehicle Guaidó was riding in, including most windows shattered.
Guaidó – who is legally the president of Venezuela but has not been able to exercise his powers, as Maduro controls the military – went to Barquisimeto, Lara state, on Saturday to attend a scheduled event in favor of democracy in the country. Guaidó has made protests, rallies, caravans, and marches the core of his campaign to remove Maduro, an attempt to use civil disobedience and peaceful resistance to attain the political power his office should bestow him. The march reportedly attracted the presence of obviously armed socialists, but they did not attack until the end of the event, when Guaidó was scheduled to speak to his supporters.
According to Efecto Cucoyo, an anti-Maduro outlet in Venezuela, shortly before the march on Saturday concluded, “[the crowd] was dispersed by bullets and blunt objects [launched] by chavista groups and some identified as plain-clothes officers.”
Eyewitnesses said the thugs attempted to beat them with bottles as well as bricks and other projectiles. Some testified to being robbed of their few material possessions simply for being present at a pro-democracy rally. One unidentified woman told the network VPI that the colectivos appeared desperate to steal from and injure Guaidó’s supporters.
“They shot us up, they surrounded us, they beat us, they robbed us,” the woman said, according to the Argentine news network Infobae. “They stole my entire bag. They intimidated us and are going around seeing who they can grab and attack.”
The colectivos appeared to target Guaidó specifically and significantly damaged his vehicle. Guaidó himself said he noted at least nine gunshot marks on the car.
#Venezuela Ieri a Barquisimeto, una delle 'carovane' organizzate dal Presidente ad interim @jguaido, in vista della grande manifestazione del 10 marzo, si è conclusa con un assalto al convoglio presidenziale da parte di gruppi armati vicini a #Maduro. #venezuelalibre 🇻 pic.twitter.com/ru5aab9u22
— Antonio Tajani (@Antonio_Tajani) March 1, 2020
Después de 20 años de cuentos y patrañas para perseguir a la disidencia, ahora sí hay pruebas claras sobre un intento de magnicidio: el sufrido hoy en Barquisimeto por el presidente Juan Guaidó… pic.twitter.com/lp39DyNuJp
— Pedro Pablo Peñaloza (@pppenaloza) February 29, 2020
Socialists also opened fire or otherwise attacked anyone present, particularly journalists.
Late dictator Hugo Chávez made private gun ownership illegal in Venezuela, but pro-socialist thugs can easily get their hands on firearms. Maduro has in the past promised free weapons to anyone who vows to use them to attack dissidents. In December, he promised to arm 4 million “militants” against democracy by 2020.
The blunt objects pelted at the crowd resulted in two injuries, while the teen is the only known person injured by gunshots, shot in the leg in the ensuing chaos after Guaidó’s convoy was gunned down.
Guaidó and those around him have described the assault as an assassination attempt on him directly. It is the first known instance of Maduro supporters attempting to kill Guaidó in public.
“The dictatorship could have killed me, they could have assassinated me today, without a doubt. They shot firearms, they aimed at me, but that will not make us retreat,” Guaidó said following the event. “Neither this, neither arresting our families, nor politically persecuting us,” he added, referring to his imprisoned uncle, Juan José Márquez. Márquez was arrested after arriving in Venezuela with Guaidó following his world tour last month. Maduro had banned Guaidó from leaving the country, a ban he disregarded on his way throughout Europe and much of Latin America.
Guaidó called Maduro and his second-in-command, the television host and suspected drug kingpin Diosdado Cabello, “cowards” and vowed to remain on the street.