In Venezuela, it is not uncommon for black-clad government thugs to appear out of nowhere and arrest or execute innocent civilians.
Sometimes, the thugs wear Halloween masks while they conduct their dirty work.
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Between 2015 and 2017, more than 8,200 journalists, political opponents, protestors, and innocent civilians were killed by government forces.
Thousands more were injured or thrown in jail.
Bravely investigating these crimes is a group of more than 100 women whose sons and husbands were executed without cause. The group was founded by Aracelis Sanchez, whose 20-year-old son was shot and killed by police troops at their home in 2013.
“We have to denounced [the killings], we have to document it,” says Sanchez. “We know we are not in a time of justice, but it has to be done because if we stay quiet, we allow the same thing that happened to us, to happen to others.”
In response to complaints about extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, the UN this year sent a five-person team to investigate. According to the investigation, the Venezuelan government is now using its Special Action Force (FAES) to murder opposition supporters.
So far, the group has been linked to more than 200 extrajudicial killings.
FAES claims the deaths resulted from ‘armed confrontations’ with civilians, even though most of the victims were unarmed.
“I think that this is terrorism, that [the government] inflicts on the people of the barrios so that the people do not come out and protest,” argues Carmen Elena Arroyo, whose 25-year-old son was killed by FAES in 2018. “Soon there won’t be any young men left.”
The extrajudicial killings in Venezuela are conducted by a biased and corrupt government with no concept of separation of powers, under the eye of a dictator who offers bags of food in exchange for votes.
Desperately fighting to change the situation is Juan Guaido, the opposition leader who declared himself President in January. Guaido has widespread support from the US and others, but efforts to oust rival President Nicolas Maduro have been derailed by Russia.
Last week, Guaido urged Maduro aides and members of the military to desert in the name of the Venezuelan people – who are suffering from lack of food, medicine, and basic supplies. More than 3 million people have fled the country since 2014.
“We would like to no longer see kids dying in our country. We would like to no longer see politically motivated murders, or [those] caused by crime and violence,” Guaido told ABC News. “We would like to see hospitals full of medicine…We would like to recover the oil industry that was ransacked and is sadly lost because of corruption.”
Guaido is an advocate for peaceful change, but based on the deteriorating conditions in Venezuela, he says he is open to outside military intervention.
“The United States stands firmly with you in your quest for freedom and democracy,” promised Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, who has repeatedly stated that military intervention is still on the table.
In response to the turmoil, Maduro on Saturday urged his troops to “be ready to defend the homeland with weapons in your hands if one day the US empire dares to touch this territory.”
Editor’s note: In a society under complete collapse it is ironic that Maduro believes some of his most intelligent and capable citizens are disposable. But every brutal dictator knows that if you kill off any potential leaders of opposition groups it is much more difficult to mount a rebellion.