A video surfacing online on Wednesday shows gangs loyal to socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela handing out brutal punishments to individuals, some reports identifying them as violators of the ongoing Chinese coronavirus quarantine.
The video shows left-wing paramilitaries, or colectivos, beating three men with a baseball bat while joking among themselves, pretending the man with the bat is playing a baseball game and swinging at a ball when he hits the men.
The first man is struck in the ankle, causing him to fall down. The second man stood with his hands against the wall and is heard saying, “I didn’t do anything.” Someone off-camera then yells “protection” at him but did not attack him. The batter then hits a third and hands the bat off to someone else to attack.
The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional noted that a Venezuelan human rights NGO, Provea, asserted that colectivos were using the quarantine as an excuse to beat and torture people, punishing them for allegedly not wearing masks or being out after curfew. Provea claimed those in the video were alleged quarantine violators.
Colectivos are a staple of Maduro’s regime, organized by the late Hugo Chávez as a key component in his strategy to control the country’s population, particularly within impoverished communities. The groups engage in intimidation tactics including attacks on opposition lawmakers, storming churches seen as opposed to the regime, harassing journalists, soliciting bribes, and demanding total loyalty from the poorest citizens in return for meager food rations and other living essentials.
Venezuela remains in a nationwide lockdown as the number of coronavirus cases across Latin America surged in recent weeks. Despite reporting an uptick in cases, many analysts have expressed skepticism over the official Maduro regime figures, especially given the collapse of the country’s “universal healthcare” system and the poor health of its poverty-stricken population. According to Venezuelan health authorities, just over 100 people have died from the coronavirus, compared to neighboring countries, including over 7,000 fatalities in Colombia and 83,000 in Brazil.
Last week, New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that, in Colombia, Marxist groups were killing people failing to abide by lockdown measures. The organizations, which include the communist People’s Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), have reportedly killed eight civilians and threatened or attacked countless others for not following the rules.
“Draconian ‘punishments’ imposed by armed groups to prevent the spread of Covid-19 mean that people in remote and impoverished communities across Colombia risk being attacked and even killed if they leave their homes,” noted HRW’s Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco. “The government should urgently ramp up its efforts to protect these communities, ensuring they have adequate food and water, and protect their health from the effects of Covid-19.”