Target: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro
Goal: Don’t allow military forces to kill protesters
A new law in Venezuela allows military forces to fire openly at protesting citizens if they feel their own lives may be in danger. This law is both vague enough to allow military personnel to kill nonviolent protesters and severe enough to frighten citizens away from demanding their needs be met. The law is also unconstitutional if misinterpreted, as the Venezuelan constitution specifically bans the use of such force against peaceful protest.
In response to months of violent protesting in 2014, the Venezuelan Minister of Defense, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, implemented the new regulations, calling them an opportunity to train the troops in appropriately responding to demonstrations. Many human rights groups believe the regulations are instead an attempt to scare citizens away from demonstrating.
The law also allows fully outfitted soldiers to shoot and kill civilians whom they consider to be a threat virtually without oversight. Soldiers are equipped for combat situations, which hardly applies to demonstrations. Citizens have no way of effectively defending themselves against coordinated, armed efforts. Marcela Maspero of the National Workers Union believes the regulations are a direct threat to the working class, the group most represented in the nation’s protests.
The demonstrations in 2014 dealt largely with the lack of safety and inadequate access to basic food supplies for working families and students. With the country’s quickly rising gas prices and continually high rates of violence, it seems the government fears future uprisings, leading to the threat of deadly force.
Demand the Venezuelan government retract such a dangerous law, aimed at quieting citizens who demand their needs be met.
Dear President Maduro,
The recent decision to allow the lethal use of firearms in response to civilian demonstrations puts the lives of Venezuelan citizens at risk while threatening their rights to free speech. These regulations may act to deter some violent demonstrations out of fear, but will likely cost the lives of innocent people.
Furthermore, the Venezuelan constitution bans the use of firearms in response to peaceful protest. While the new law states that lethal force may only be used when military troops feel their lives are at risk, each soldier may interpret that risk quite differently and they simply are not in a position to assess what risk is posed while wielding high powered assault weapons against civilians.
I urge you to reconsider Venezuela’s position on the use of firearms against its protesting citizens.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Andrés E. Azpúrua via Wikimedia Commons