EspañolState-security services arrested at least 22 people on Saturday in Venezuela, as 10,000 protestors took to the streets of Caracas to demand the release of political prisoners, with similar demonstrations taking place in another 10 major cities across the country.
Among the detained in Maracaibo, Zulia State, was Televisa journalist Henry Villasmil. Video evidence shows officers of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) assaulting Villasmil and knocking him to the ground. According to local NGO Venezuelan Penal Forum, the reporter was released soon afterwards.
Saturday’s protests were convened by opposition leader Leopoldo López, who was jailed in February 2014 for allegedly inciting violence during anti-government demonstrations.
In late May, López and his fellow prisoner, former Mayor of San Cristóbal Daniel Ceballos, announced a hunger strike until all of Venezuela’s dozens of political prisoners are released.
Hundreds marched through the main cities of the northwestern state of Zulia, holding banners which echoed López’s video demands that the administration of President Nicolás Maduro release jailed dissidents and announce a firm date for this year’s parliamentary elections.
“I came to protest because, as a young person, I want my country to recover economically. We shouldn’t have to wait in line for everything, for the little we have left of basic goods,” protestor Jefferson Soto told local daily Panorama.
“I want to be able to go out without being afraid of getting robbed,” he added.
Lester Toledo, a member of Zulia’s legislative council for López’s Popular Will (VP) party, told reporters that the demonstrations would remain peaceful.
“Those who govern Zulia should understand that we will not be divided, nor will we spread violence,” Toledo stated.
Nevertheless, local police arrested 10 protestors who were leaving demonstrations, among them a 15-year-old.
“They were leaving the protest in their car when a police offer stopped them. It was an arbitrary arrest; the only thing police found in the car was a flag,” Celia Dao, local coordinator of the Penal Forum, told press.
— Héctor Peña (@Hector_ManuelP) May 30, 2015
“Never in my whole life, not even in all the protests and the years of struggle, have I seen such a huge protest in #Táchira #30M”
Meanwhile in Táchira state, previously the scene of some of the most strident protests against the administration of former President Hugo Chávez, college students lead a mobilization of thousands. Student leaders defended their right to “peaceful but irreverent” struggle.
According to the Penal Forum, 12 people were detained, of which six were minors.