The recent appearance of threatening graffiti targeting political, social and student leaders in Venezuela is a previously unknown tactic in the country, although it is similar to commonplace practices among Colombian criminal groups.
On May 10, the walls of 26 homes and businesses in 10 states across the country were daubed with threatening messages against opponents of the Nicolás Maduro regime. Most graffiti were signed by armed ‘colectivos’ (paramilitary groups linked to the government), also dedicated to criminal activities such as contract killings, extortion, drug sales and kidnapping, among others.
The images recalled practices by Colombian armed groups, such as the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN), that marked the residences of their enemies and potential victims with graffiti.
These similarities may be more than a coincidence. In April, the ELN had already painted similar threats, according to InfoBae.
These graffitied threats, which have gone unpunished, show yet another way in which the State has delegated power to criminal groups.
Here are some of the cases:
1. Carlos Javier Arencibia – Coordinator of Popular Will (Voluntad Popular) – State of Miranda
Arencibia is a journalist and university professor who was formerly a municipal councilor in Carrizal, Miranda, under the administration of José Luis Rodríguez, who is now a leader of the opposition A New Time (Un Nuevo Tiempo) party.
2.Sergio Vergara – Deputy to the National Assembly – State of Táchira
After the threat was written against him, Vergara took to Twitter to denounce that “the desperate Dictatorship is trying to frighten and sow terror. They will not succeed. They only feed the certainty that the end is coming and that their options are exhausted. Last night, they marked my house as they did with other deputies of the Assembly. We continue alongside the citizens of Venezuela!”
3.Elías Tartak – Member of Broad Front for a Free Venezuela (Frente Amplio por una Venezuela Libre) – State of Miranda
The threats were written on the walls of two businesses belonging to the businessman and social leader: a small cable television company and a perfume and cosmetics store. Both threats were signed by Colectivo Activo.
4.Emilio Mirabal – Local Counselor for Justice First (Primer Justicia) – State of Anzoátegui
The message, accusing Mirabal of being a fascist, was signed by the Communist Train (Tren Comunista) group. The leader stated he had been targeted by phone and social media threats for several weeks.
5.Frankin Landaez – Member of Broad Front for a Free Venezuela (Frente Amplio por una Venezuela Libre) – State of Miranda
The businessman explained that the judiciary police have not allowed him to make a formal complaint as such a threat is not listed as a crime in Venezuela’s Penal Code.
6.Paúl Pagés – General Secretary of Democratic Action (Acción Democrática) – State of Miranda
After the threat written on the walls of his house, he reported that officials from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional – SEBIN) were stationed outside his house for several days, allegedly to +monitor and intimidate him.
7.Freddy Cimino – Municipal Coordinator for Popular Will (Voluntad Popular) – State of Miranda
In this case, the threats against Cimino were painted on walls around his home, including on shops along a main road.
8.Roger Delgado – Secretary of Justice First (Primero Justicia) – State of Miranda
Despite a long political career in the state of Miranda, including as an alternate state deputy and links to opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, this is the first time Delgado has ever received threats.
9.José Brito – Deputy for Justice First (Primero Justicia) – State of Anzoátegui
Brito is one of the National Assembly Deputies to have received the most frequent threats and accusations against him.
10.Alfonso Marquina – Deputy for Justice First (Primero Justicia) – State of Lara
The threat against Marquina, a deputy and party coordinator in Lara, was unattributed, as were most of the series of threats graffitied around the country.
11.Alfredo Ramos – Political Activist – State of Lara)
He is seeking to stand as a candidate for the governorship of the state of Lara. He is close to Américo De Grazia, a National Assembly deputy and leading opponent to Nicolás Maduro
12.Macarena González – Leader of Popular Will (Voluntad Popular) – State of Lara
Gonzalez is close to Juan Guaidó and was the coordinator for Operation Liberty, his failed attempt to overthrow Maduro, in the state of Lara. She is the daughter of alternate deputy to the National Assembly, Macario González.
13. Roberto Sánchez Fortoul – Secretary of Democratic Action (Acción Democrática) – State of Lara
“They are going to need more than main to scare us. The people are not afraid,” said the defiant lawmaker after the threat was painted on his wall.
14. Karim Vera – Deputy to National Assembly – State of Táchira
“The repressive forces of the dictatorship continue their strategy of intimidation against the deputies to the Assembly…they intend to stop our struggle with the Venezuelan people to liberate the country. My appartment in San Juan de Colón Táchira has been besieged since yesterday,” Vera tweeted after the threats.
15. Breiner Díaz – Student Leader at Uni Universidad de Los Andes – State of Táchira
Diaz said that men on motorcycles opened fire nearby after they painted the graffitis in order to threaten him directly.
16.Luis Lippa – Deputy for the Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática) – State of Apure
The threat was painted on a pharmacy belonging to Lippa. He reported that a SEBIN vehicle was circling his house on May 10.
17.Eliezer Sirit – Secretary of Democratic Action (Acción Democrática) – State of Falcón
Sirit also had an altercation with the National Guard in Puerto Cabello as he returned from a show of support for detained lawmaker Edgar Zambrano. They detained his vehicle for allegedly having modified license plates.
18.Germán Rodríguez – Coordinator of Popular Will (Voluntad Popular) – State of Apure
The state leader stated that these acts of intimidation have arisen due to the support for the opposition and the work which has been done to change the country by Juan Guaidó.
19.Kerrin Mavarez – Alternate Deputy to the National Assembly – State of Falcón
On May 10, Mavarez reported that a white van containing several men arrived at his residence in Santa Cruz de Los Taques, in Paraguaná, and that they tried to enter his house. When they could not, they left a written message on the road outside.