News, Joel Preston Smith
Human Rights Watch’s latest report on governmental abuses was released today. The title offers a fair portrait of the contents: Crackdown on Dissent: Brutality, Torture, and Political Persecution in Venezuela.
We’ve been talking with activists in Venezuela for a few weeks now, hoping to share resources so that some of the healthcare needs of social-justice workers there can be better met.
The report's Annex of Cases details precisely why Venezuelan activists are suffering. Take the case of 32-year-old Alejandro Pérez Castilla (a pseudonym): “On July 26, GNB [Venezuelan National Guard] agents detained Pérez during a demonstration. He said they threw him inside an armored vehicle, where they beat him for hours, walked on his fingers, pressed his face towards one of the guards’ genitals, and threatened to rape his daughter.”
Or the case of Wuilly Arteaga, 23: “Arteaga said that on July 27, GNB agents detained him when he was peacefully participating in a protest. Arteaga said that during his detention, officers beat him with a metal tube, set his hair on fire and then put it out by beating him with their helmets, and interrogated him apparently so he would incriminate opposition leaders. Arteaga said that he also witnessed a female detainee being sexually abused.”
The utter brutality of State forces is obvious in a video that depicts GNB forces attacking 33-year-old Gianni Scovani, who has been diagnosed with Asperberger’s Syndrome. Not only was he punched, kicked, and beaten with clubs and riot shields, but he was arrested and held without access to medical care or an attorney, according to HRW.
In addition to the violence Venezuelan activists must cope with, they’re also faced with a medical system in collapse. One activist told us recently that the country can get only about 20 percent of the mental-health medications that patient demand calls for.
Things would be far worse for activists if it weren’t for Primeros Auxilios UCV, Venezuela’s Green Medics, based out of the Central University in Caracas. Co-founders (and medical students) Daniela Liendo and Federica Davila direct medical care at protests, and also run a motorcycle-based ambulance service in which injured activists are held between the driver and a passenger while racing to nearby hospitals.
If you'd like to support them, even with a kind word of thanks for the brave work they do, you can find them here on Facebook.