Socialist government agents reportedly assaulted and harassed three opposition Congressmen as they walked out the legislature in Venezuela on Tuesday, a day before a scheduled rally to end dictator Nicolás Maduro’s rule.
According to NTN24, Congressmen José Guerra, Juan Matheus, and Sirit Eliezer were assaulted by government officials as they attempted to leave the legislature, having just approved the appointment of a Venezuelan representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), a body which continues to lobby for the removal of Maduro from power.
Speaking after the attack, José Guerra accused Pedro Carvajalino, a senior member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), of leading the attack. Members of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) eventually intervened and tried to protect the legislators.
“Leaving the National Assembly with the deputies Juan Matheus and Eliezer Sirit, we were attacked by a gang of the PSUV led by Carvajalino, under the alias Cabeza de Mango [Mango Head],” the parliamentarian wrote on his Twitter. “I recovered my phone but Sirit’s was stolen by those thugs.”
#22Ene. Saliendo de la AN con los diputados @JuanMMatheus y @SiritEliezer fuimos agredidos por una patota del PSUV dirigidos por Carvajalino alias Cabeza de Mango. Yo recuperé mi teléfono pero a Sirit se lo robaron esos hampones https://t.co/Bl2taIbeqU
— Jose Guerra (@JoseAGuerra) January 22, 2019
Similar incidents have taken place in the past. In 2016, opposition lawmaker Julio Borges had his nose broken while several others were injured in a shocking public beating outside the National Assembly, while the following year socialists stormed the same building and kept hundreds of legislators and journalists hostage for over eight hours.
The use of violence and intimidation by the regime’s most loyal supporters has long been a common tactic to quell political opposition. This month, socialist gangs in Venezuela pledged to protect Maduro “with rifle in hand” on the day of his inauguration ceremony, amid fears that opposition factions may stage an attack or uprising.
As part of their show of force, the group patrolled through the streets of western Caracas wearing masks and shouting slogans in support of late President Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” while firing their weapons in the air. The rally concluded at the Cuartel de la Montaña, where Chávez’s tomb is kept.
— Valentin Santana (@valentinpueblo) January 7, 2019
The presence of pro-government gangs, known as colectivos, also form an essential part of the regime’s power strategy. As well as threatening political opponents, the gangs are also employed to control impoverished communities dependent on state aid and therefore ensure their loyalty to the regime.
Typical crimes include the attacking opposition lawmakers, storming and shutting down services at Catholic Churches and other institutions critical of the regime, and the endemic harassment journalists seen as exposing the government’s numerous human rights violations.