By Jacob Clott
On February 24, Kluiverth Roa, a 14 year old Venezuelan boy, was killed while demonstrating in San Cristobal (1). The death outraged the community, who were shocked that armed forces would kill a young boy (2).
Roa was a part of the protests that had been taking place in Venezuela for over a year. The protests began in February 2014, when students protested for better security after someone attempted to rape a classmate. These protests from students led to more and more people protesting about security (3). The public was dissatisfied with the economy and the security of Venezuela and felt the the government had not done enough to resolve the issue. The protestors, made up of people such as students, middle-class citizens, and members of the political group called the Table for Democratic Unity, also wanted the government to take action and make Venezuela more secure. These desires make sense, as when the protests started in February 2014, Venezuela had the fifth highest murder rate in the world, and ended the previous year with inflation at 56.2% (4). However, the problem hasn’t been resolved. Last year, the Venezuelan economy shrunk by 4% and the price of oil continues to decrease, which is a problem as oil makes up 95% of Venezuelan income. Furthermore, as of January 2015, there is a shortage of many important goods, such as food, soap, diapers, and milk, leading many needy Venezuelan citizens to wait in line for hours at a time in order to gain access to the materials that they need. All of this hasn’t improved the support of the government, as the approval rate for Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, is at a low 22% (5).
Kluiverth Roa’s death led to further protests, with the protesters now further enraged about Resolution 8610, the resolution allowing law enforcement to use deadly force on protestors (1).
Resolution 8610 was passed by the Venezuelan Ministry of Defense in late January. As stated above, it allows armed forces to use potentially lethal force to stop protests. However, the resolution violates the Venezuelan Constitution, which says that “the use of firearms and toxic substances in the control of public protests” (6). In January, when the resolution was created, it was met with backlash, but after the death of Kluiverth Roa, the protests against it increased. In response to Roa’s death, which was the first death during a protest after Resolution 8610 was created, many people began petitioning the resolution and people like professors and human rights activists spoke out against it. This led to a government response, when Governor Jose Vielma Mora, who belongs to the same party as Nicolas Maduro stated that “Decree 8610 presents the use of weapons as a last resort, and requires the written permission of the defense minister. What’s happening is that the government hasn’t explained it well”. Maduro himself also responded, simply saying that “armed repression is not allowed in Venezuela” (7).
Now, after about two months, the man responsible for Roa’s death has been arrested. Javier Mora Ortiz, a 23 year old police officer, was found guilty of murder on May 8, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison (8).