Monday, March 10, 2014

Venezuela: Update--Chilean Resident in Mérida Shot, Killed While Clearing Clutter, Trash from Her Home

According to Reuters, the death of Chilean national Giselle Rubilar, 47, who was studying in the western Venezuelan city of Mérida, brought to at least 21 the total number of fatalities in five weeks of demonstrations against President Nicolás Maduro's socialist government.

Ms. Rubilar was shot and killed while clearing a barricade put up by anti-government protesters in the first foreign fatality from a month of unrest in Venezuela, authorities and state media said on Monday (March 10).

Tragically, Rubilar was neither protesting or supporting the Maduro government. She was simply shot and killed for removing clutter and trash left by others next to her home in Mérida."

State media said masked demonstrators had shot her, but there is no way of confirming such an assertion, as the Maduro media cannot be trusted to report the truth.

Students and militant opponents of Maduro have been maintaining street barricades in various cities since last month, demanding the president's resignation and solutions to problems of crime and food shortages. 

COMMENT: Barricades sadly have become frequent flashpoints for violence between protesters, security forces and government supporters. 

Outgoing Chilean President Sebastian Pinera lamented the latest death. "We've asked the Venezuelan government to investigate and give us all the information about the circumstances and cause of this death," he said.

Though street protests helped briefly topple the late socialist leader Hugo Chávez in a botched 2002 coup, there seems little likelihood that the current unrest could lead to a Ukraine-style overthrow of his successor, Nicolás Maduro.

The ongoing, daily protests are a mix of peaceful demonstrations and violent exchanges between security forces and hooded protesters hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails.

But students are vowing to stay on the street indefinitely in what could be a protracted period of instability for Venezuela's 29 million people.

Needless to say, I am strongly discouraging non-essential travel to Venezuela until order is restored in the country. 

Please note: Non-essential means NO travel to the country unless you are on official or business-mandated travel that involves the protection of life and limb.  

Those currently in major cities should remain in their homes and offices as much as possible in order to avoid random gunfire that is occurring throughout the country.