On 6/27/2017 2:57 PM, jat wrote:mislea&ding and un referenced snippets
to disinform about his favorire dictator
To set the record straight:
Heroes or agitators? Young lawmakers on Venezuela's front line
By Andrew Cawthorne and Victoria Ramirez | CARACAS
One was knocked off his feet by a water cannon. Another was pushed into
a drain. Most have been pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, beaten and hit by
A group of young Venezuelan lawmakers has risen to prominence on the
violent front line of anti-government marches that have shaken the South
American country for three months, bringing 75 deaths.
On the streets daily leading demonstrators, pushing at security
barricades and sometimes picking up teargas canisters to hurl back at
police and soldiers, the energetic National Assembly members are heroes
to many opposition supporters.
But to President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government, they are the
chief "terrorists" in a U.S.-backed coup plot aimed at controlling the
vast oil wealth of the OPEC nation.
The dozen or so legislators, all in their late 20s or early 30s, belong
mainly to the Justice First and Popular Will parties, which are
promoting civil disobedience against a president they term a dictator.
They march largely without protective gear - unlike the masked and
shield-bearing youths around them - though supporters and aides
sometimes form circles to guard them.
They do not receive salaries since funds to the National Assembly were
squeezed, living instead off gifts from relatives and friends. And some
still reside at home with parents.
One of the best known, Juan Requesens, 28, has taken more hits than
most. He nurses a scar in the head from a stick thrown by government
supporters, wounds around his body from pellets and gas cannisters and
bruises from being shoved into a deep drain by National Guard soldiers.
"The worst thing for me is when comrades die, when they fall at my
side," the burly, bearded Requesens told Reuters, saying he had been
near nine fatalities since April.
Protesters have been demanding a presidential vote and solutions to
hunger and medical shortages. The deaths have included not only
demonstrators, but also Maduro supporters, bystanders and members of the
There have been thousands of injuries too, and nearly 1,500 people
remain behind bars, according to local rights groups, after roundups
around the country.
Requesens, who represents western Tachira State where there is radical
opposition to Maduro, freely admits his role as an "agitator" for the
opposition. But despite his tough image, he obeyed his mother's order to
stay at home after the head injury.
"For four days, she wouldn't let me go out - but it was fine because I
rested and recovered quicker, then back again of course," he said.
Some have dubbed the band of lawmakers "the class of 2007" for their
roots in a student movement a decade ago that helped the opposition to a
rare victory against Maduro's popular predecessor Hugo Chavez in a
"It's a group born in the street during the 2007 protests. We're meeting
up again 10 years later doing the same," said Harvard-educated Juan
Mejia, lawmaker for Miranda State, which includes part of the capital
Caracas, has lost one friend in a protest and another in an accident on
the way to a march.
"For us, this is an existential struggle," he added, saying his
generation grew up under socialist rule and was fed up with economic
hardship, crime and political repression.
"I'm 31 and I'd like to live off my work, but I can't ... I don't want
to depend on my parents all my life," he added in a hotel where
opposition politicians were strategizing during a brief lull in their
daily street activities.
Officials accuse the lawmakers of paying youths and even children as
young as 12 to attack security forces, block roads and burn property.
They have threatened to jail them.
State airlines refuse to sell them tickets, and private carriers are
under pressure to do the same, meaning they cannot fly around the
country, the lawmakers say. Some have also had passports confiscated or
annulled, blocking foreign travel.
In a typical recent speech, Maduro blasted Freddy Guevara, a 31-year-old
lawmaker who leads the Popular Will party in the absence of its jailed
leader Leopoldo Lopez, as "Chucky" in reference to a murderous doll in a
He also singled out Miguel Pizarro, 29, a drum-playing lawmaker with the
Justice First party who recently wept at a news conference minutes after
a 17-year-old was shot dead close to him during a protest in Caracas.
"He puts on that dumb face and behind it, he's ordering them to kill and
burn," Maduro said. "Pizarro, you're listening to me; you'll carry this
with you all your life."
The lawmakers scoff at that, saying they now carry the nation's dreams
for change while an ever-more desperate Maduro is clinging to power
against the majority's will.
Their mantra is peaceful protest, and indeed when marches have not been
blocked - such as to a state TV office and the Catholic Church
headquarters - there has been no trouble.
But some admit to tossing back gas cannisters or throwing the odd stone,
and there has been criticism the legislators have not done enough to
restrain violence within opposition ranks, from burning property to
Jose Manuel Olivares, a 31-year-old lawmaker for coastal Vargas State,
is a doctor and says his profession makes it all the more important to
avoid violence. He recently required 12 stitches after being hit in the
head by a tear gas cannister, and has often given first aid during
clashes in the streets.
Yet he defends protesters' rights to "self-defense" and admits to
wearing gloves to pick up gas cannisters.
"If I'm surrounded by old people, adults or even my family, and teargas
falls nears us, it's legitimate defense to throw it back. Stones? Yes.
But stones against bullets ... The battle is disproportional," he said.
"I'm not saying we're martyrs ... but we're trying to give the best
example we can, fighting for the country, saying 'Here I am, taking
risks just like you and you'."
(Additional reporting by Andreina Aponte; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel
and Cynthia Osterman)