Venezuela’s Bloody Independence Day: Chavista Gangs Take Congress Hostage for Eight Hours

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Venezuelan National Assembly

Socialist chavista gangs known as “colectivos” stormed Venezuela’s National Assembly Wednesday – the nation’s Independence Day – and kept hundreds of legislators and journalists hostage for eight hours, according to people who were later released.

Gang members also savagely beat legislators and protesters, staining the walls of the national legislator with blood and sending multiple lawmakers to the hospital.

The government of dictator Nicolás Maduro accused the victims of the violence of attempting to “murder” chavistas in a state television report.

Before the siege began, vice president and U.S.-designated “drug kingpin” Tareck El Aissami organized an event to commemorate Independence Day at the nearby Federal Legislative Palace, where he issued remarks calling for a second independence “against the Yankee imperialists” and said the National Assembly had “been hijacked by the same oligarchy that betrayed [Venezuelan founding father Simón] Bolívar.”

El Aissami, Dolar Today reports, encouraged action to prevent an election organized by the National Assembly to replace socialist leaders. In a speech this year, Maduro promised any colectivo a firearm should he vow to attack the opposition, defying his own government’s strict ban on guns.

Shortly after that speech, colectivos stormed the building, beating opposition members with pipes, shooting at them, and robbing anyone trying to escape the building. According to the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional, more than 350 people were trapped in the legislative capitol building, including “108 journalists, 120 workers, 94 lawmakers, musicians present to play the national anthem, and special guests.” In addition to shooting at, hurling stones at, and beating lawmakers, the colectivos detonated fireworks inside the building, injuring dozens.

The National Assembly published graphic photos of the attack on its Twitter account:

La Patilla reported that the siege appeared to begin around 11 a.m. local time, and opposition authorities announced at 7:30 p.m. that “most” of those trapped inside had finally been freed. While trapped, some legislators posted videos on social media urging international human rights activists and free nations to act on their behalf.

Socialist thugs violently attacked those outside, as well. Videos on social media show lawmakers forced to brawl with these thugs to defend themselves from a gang beating:

Once released, those taken hostage said they witnessed multiple assaults and robberies of individuals who attempted to break through the mob of attackers to leave the building. Witnesses said the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), responsible for the security of the building, was “indifferent” in the face of the attack. In contrast, GNB soldiers have beaten, shot, and run over unarmed protesters with armored tanks in the past three months.

Julio Borges, the opposition president of the National Assembly, was among those taken hostage by the mob. He estimated the assault took more than seven hours and declared Maduro personally responsible for the violence. “Nicolás Maduro is the violence in Venezuela, the people who came today to interrupt here are the clear demonstration of a violent Venezuela,” he told reporters. “The government uses force to repress the country, that is the regime’s calling card, but nothing and nobody will deter the will of the people.”

On Thursday, Borges, whom colectivos publicly beat, breaking his nose, in 2016, warned that similar incidents would continue to occur under this regime. “It is clear that the episode that occurred at the National Assembly yesterday is part of the politics of fear and violence of a cornered Nicolás Maduro,” he told reporters. He confirmed at least seven injuries among lawmakers: Representatives Américo De Grazia, Armando Armas, Luis Padilla, José Regnault, and Nora Bracho.

Opposition leader Lilian Tintori – whose husband, opposition party leader Leopoldo López, is serving a 14-year prison sentence for organizing peaceful rallies in 2013 – posted graphic photos of the legislators most gravely injured, many bleeding from the face and head:

Tintori has co-organized an anti-socialist rally for Thursday with Armando Armas, who received severe blows to the head during the attack. Warning – Graphic Photos:

The American State Department issued a statement condemning the attack and demanding Maduro’s government prevent such incidents. “This violence, perpetrated during the celebration of Venezuela’s independence, is an assault on the democratic principles cherished by the men and women who struggled for Venezuela’s independence 206 years ago today,” the State Department affirmed. “We call on the Venezuelan government to immediately provide for the protection of the National Assembly, ensure those injured in today’s attack are able to receive medical attention, and bring the attackers to justice. We urge all sides in Venezuela to refrain from violence.”

“The United States deplores the Venezuelan government’s increasing authoritarianism, and the convocation of a National Constituent Assembly designed to undermine Venezuela’s democratic institutions, including the National Assembly,” the statement continued.

Despite the fact that the violent attackers involved were government supporters, the state-run VTV broadcast outlet blamed the incident on “the right wing.” In an article titled “Just as It Did During the Fourth Republic, the Right Wing Attempted to Murder Youth at National Assembly This July 5,” VTV quotes National Assembly socialist leader Diosdado Cabello accusing opposition “terrorists” of setting off explosives in the building, without providing evidence.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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