Venezuelans have congregated in a Caracas neighborhood to protest the death of a boy with Down syndrome, who reports claim police shot to death after he reflexively fled the scene of law enforcement activity.
The death is the latest in a string of state homicides since anti-socialist protests became a daily occurrence in late March when the socialist government’s Supreme Court attempted to annul the opposition-held National Assembly and appoint itself both the nation’s lawmaking and judicial body.
The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported that the child in question was ten years old, and was killed in the Libertador municipal area of Caracas. The newspaper cites photographer Daniel Blanco, who posted news of the assembly against the government in the area on Twitter Wednesday morning.
Reportan manifestación en El Cementerio. Vecinos dicen que protestan por asesinato de niño (10) con síndrome de down a manos de la PNB.
— Daniel Blanco (@DanielBlancoPz) July 11, 2017
Opposition leader Jesús Torrealba also posted a note on Twitter identifying the protest as specifically to clamor for justice for the boy.
Vecinos de LosMangos, 1ro d Mayo y LosSinTecho (Sta Rosalía, Ccs) protestan por asesinato de niño con Síndrome de Down a manos de la policía
— Jesus Chuo Torrealba (@ChuoTorrealba) July 11, 2017
Vecinos El Cementerio trancan La Bandera por muerte de joven 13 a, de condicion especial. Acusan a la PNB. Protestan frente Comando PNB pic.twitter.com/fH85Cp1P0E
— Sabrina Machado (@MachadoSabrina) July 11, 2017
The anti-government Venezuelan site Maduradas identified the boy as Pablo Hernández and listed his age as thirteen. The site reported that, according to neighbors who knew the boy, “due to his special condition, the boy ran away when he saw the police and police, without speaking to him, shot at him.” Neighbors say they witnessed the incident and attempted to chase after the officers who shot Hernández, but they fled.
Venezuelan journalist Román Camacho added that, according to witnesses, the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) officers involved were accompanied by colectivos—armed chavista gangs the government enables to intimidate and kill opposition protesters—and that “special units were deployed and took away the boy’s body.”
As of Wednesday morning, protests continued in the boy’s name.
The incident is the latest such death. On Tuesday, for example, Dolar Today reports that a water utility truck ran over a youth amid a protest in Bolívar city. The Venezuelan site Runrunes identifies the boy as 17-year-old Oswaldo Britt, and notes that protesters had set the government utility truck in question on fire.
On Monday night, a 55-year-old professor identified as Janeth Angulo Parra was killed attempting to join protesters in Lara state, urging them to lift a roadblock. She died bludgeoned to the head, according to El Nacional, though it was unclear whether the National Guard shot her or hurled a projectile at her to end her life.
Runrunes’ running tally of deaths since protests began on April 1 now shows that 113 people have died since that day amid state violence against peaceful protesters. Young men and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to state violence, killed by gunshots, tear gas canisters hurled at their heads, and run over with armored tanks.
Violence against young Venezuelans is not new, however. Nearly 10,000 underaged Venezuelans were killed in 2015—defined as people between the ages of fifteen and twenty—and 854 people under 15 were killed in “violent circumstances,” according to an NGO active in the country. A year before that, the murder of Kluivert Roa, a 14-year-old from western San Cristóbal, made global headlines. The socialist national guard shot Roa to death after he noticed a violent incident involving troops on his way home from school and shouted “stop the repression!” at them.
This week, the NGO Amnesty International issued a demand for the government to cease using state violence against peaceful dissidents. “Recurrent attacks against the Venezuelan population and speeches inciting violence by the authorities indicate a premeditated policy of violent repression of any form of dissent, Amnesty International said today after a further increase in deaths during demonstrations, with at least 91 cases registered in only three months,” a press release read. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International denounced “a planned strategy by the government of President Maduro to use violence and illegitimate force against the Venezuelan population to neutralize any criticism.”