February 20, 2016
As Venezuela’s National Assembly discusses an amnesty law for perpetrators of political violence, a survivor of a 2014 shrapnel attack speaks out.
A survivor of Venezuela’s 2014 violence spoke out Saturday amid calls from the country’s legislators to grant amnesty to those convicted of organizing and inciting the deadly clashes.
“They burned hospitals and health clinics,” said Oscar Carrero, a truck driver who witnessed the events firsthand.
Dozens of government-run health clinics were the targets of arson attacks in February and March 2014, when anti-government demonstrators took to the streets to demand the resignation of recently elected President Nicolas Maduro.
Internationally, the anti-government demonstrations were widely described as peaceful, though Carrero’s experience was anything but.
During the protests, Carrero was driving a delivery truck packed with medical supplies when he was attacked by demonstrators.
“They threw nails at the truck. The truck flipped over, and then they started throwing things … rocks, mortar. Then they threw a papita,” he told teleSUR.
Papitas were improvised shrapnel bombs widely used by the demonstrators against civilians suspected of being sympathetic to the government.
After the explosion, Carrero passed out and was eventually rescued by emergency workers. After five days in intensive care, he awoke in hospital with a doctor looking over him.
“He told me, ‘Oscar, you lost your hand.’ I took off the bandages and after seeing my hand like that I passed out,” Carrero said. “When I woke up again, my children were there, and one of my sons said, ‘You are a warrior Dad, you have to fight. You have to keep living. We need you.’”
Carrero was just one of hundreds of ordinary Venezuelans attacked by anti-government demonstrators in early 2014.
A total of 43 people were killed in the violence, including motorcyclists decapitated by wire traps, and security officials gunned down by sniper fire.
Since then, a handful of right-wing figures have been convicted by Venezuelan courts on charges connected to the killings, including far-right politician Leopoldo Lopez.
Venezuela’s right-wing controlled National Assembly is currently discussing a broad amnesty law. The legislation would give courts 48 hours to review convictions. If all doubts over guilt cannot be resolved within 48 hours, the prisoner would have to be released.
Supporters of the amnesty law argue it will quickly free what are allegedly political prisoners, but critics maintain that it will lead to the mass release of ordinary criminals, including violent offenders linked to the killings of early 2014.
During a parliamentary debate earlier this week, socialist lawmaker Hector Rodriguez condemned the bill. “It is an instrument that legitimizes crimes such as terrorism, corruption, and drug trafficking,” he said.
Right-wing legislator Gaby Arellano defended the proposed legislation, arguing it would pave the way to “peace” and “reconciliation” — while adding that it would be followed by the mass arrest of left-wing politicians.
“They are going to be receiving justice in the courts and treated with dignity,” she said, “in the dungeons when they pay for what they stole and confiscated.”