Caracas residents report authorities violate rights to intimidate

Colinas de Bellon Monte residents say soldiers violated their rights

CARACAS, Venezuela – As complaints of warrantless searches and property damage mount against Venezuelan authorities, a group of residents in Caracas blames soldiers of breaking into an apartment complex to steal and vandalize earlier this week.

Andrea Pinzon was among about a dozen residents on the Miguel Ángel Avenue in the Bello Monte neighborhood who blame authorities for breaking the law. Pinzon said they damaged all the parked cars and stole batteries and radios. 

 "They burst in violently," Pinzon said, as she filmed cars with shattered windows. She added, "this is the Venezuela that wants to endure in our country, the Venezuela that doesn't get tired of attacking, doesn't get tired of violating our rights ... please world help us." 

The Colinas de Bello Monte residents who accuse members of the National Guard of victimizing them believe the early Monday morning attack was part of an operation to repress the ongoing protests against President Nicolas Maduro and his socialist administration. 

Clashes between authorities and residents of the middle-class neighborhood have been a regularity for about four months. Some of the residents reported hearing explosions and said they woke up to other property damage, such as broken mail boxes and light fixtures. 

General Antonio Benavides, who was taken off the job in June, was accused of systematic human rights violations during the protests. His case and other cases of alleged abuse of authority have been up in the air since Maduro's new all-powerful legislative body, known as the constituent assembly, fired Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz.  

The new delegates, who are socialists loyal to Maduro,  replaced Ortega Diaz with Tarek William Saab, a socialist attorney and politician known as "The Poet of the Revolution." The U.S. sanctioned him July 26 over his involvement with the election of the new delegates and accused him of granting impunity to authorities who engaged in human rights violations. 

United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned investigators found evidence of a "clear pattern" of excessive force. There was evidence of torture, beatings, suffocation and threats of killing or rape, according to the UN. 

"The responsibility for the human rights violations we are recording lies at the highest levels of government," the UN commissioner said. 

At Bello Monte, residents had evidence of property damage, tear gas canisters and rubber bullets. They said they were outraged and scared. Lusmairina Briseño, a resident who is a Maduro supporter and didn't suffer property damage, was the exception.

"I truly agree" with their actions, Briseño said about what she views as authorities' efforts to end the violence in Venezuela. 

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