On February 29 and March 1, 2016, unidentified individuals reportedly raided and ransacked laboratories of the Institute of Tropical Medicine of the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV-IMT).
Since October 2015, university administrators have reported a growing number of robberies and acts of vandalism taking place at UCV-IMT. These acts have come against a backdrop of mounting government repression of dissent, including reported arrests and violence used against peaceful protesters, administrative retaliation against state higher education institutions, and a dire economic situation. UCV-IMT staff allege that “colectivos,” armed groups aligned with the ruling party, are behind the robberies.
University officials reported that on February 29 and March 1, unidentified thieves stole 25 computers, as well as microwaves, printers, cash registers, and cabling; and destroyed microscopes and a specialized camera. On March 10, university officials announced the temporary suspension of teaching activities and patient care at UCV-IMT in response to the incident.
SAR received reports of two additional, similar incidents that have taken place at UCV-IMT since March 2016. On July 4, 2016, unidentified individuals reportedly raided and ransacked the UCV-IMT, stealing computers, laboratory equipments, drinking water, staff clothing, and more than 20 years of patient and research data. The following week, on July 11, UCV-IMT experienced another case of vandalism when thieves stole more medical supplies and equipment. University officials claim that this marked the 16th such incident.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a pattern of thefts and acts of vandalism targeting university property. Vandalism and theft harm the ability of higher education communities to safely and adequately conduct research, teaching, and other academic activities. State authorities have a responsibility to protect higher education communities, investigate threats, and to hold perpetrators responsible.