On June 15, 2017, state security forces reportedly used violent force against student protesters peacefully marching in the city of Guayana. Eleven students were arrested.
The march was in opposition to the Constituent Assembly elections ordered by President Nicolás Maduro, which took place at the end of July 2017, and were seen as an attempt to consolidate the ruling party’s power.
The march began at the University Catolica Andres Bello (UCAB) and proceeded down a commercial street in the city of Guayana. The Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) reportedly launched tear gas at the students on their march route, forcing them to flee to a nearby shopping mall and parking lots, where the gassing continued. The GNB arrested eleven student protesters, reportedly beating at least one student while making an arrest.
The students arrested during the protest include: Juan Jesús Urbina Segovia, Carlos Eduardo Coa Jiménez, Noel José Jiménez González, Sandino Ernesto León González, Franluis José López Romero, Eduardo Jesús Márquez, Julio César Ottati Veracierta, Eliab Samuel Petit Vera, Emerson Eudomio Salazar Pereira, Joineth José Viafara Pérez, and Jose Adalberto Pino Olivero.
A judge ordered the eleven students incarcerated pending trial, despite the prosecution’s request that they be released on bail. The students were sent to El Dorado detention center, a prison for high-risk convicts, where they were reportedly denied contact with their families. They were transferred to Guaiparo Police Coordination Center, where visitors were permitted, on June 26; and they were released on bail on August 11.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force against and arrest of students, in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association — conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Venezuela is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to protect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.