On October 20, 2019, unidentified individuals reportedly set fire to and vandalized the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) law school in an apparent effort to intimidate the university community.
Photos and videos taken after the incident show burn marks on doors to one university building and political messages graffitied on the walls of the school. One of the messages read “chavismo al combate,” an apparent reference to the political system and ideology established by former President Hugo Chávez’s regime and supported by current President Nicolás Maduro. Others included “la UCV quiere elecciones,” and “sentencia 0324 ¡ya!,” both references to a controversial Supreme Court of Justice ruling on August 27, 2019, that ordered UCV to hold elections for its university authorities and establishes guidelines for university elections across the country. The ruling was applauded by the Maduro government, while higher education communities raised concerns for institutional autonomy. By February 2020, the Court suspended the ruling.
It is unclear whether authorities identified suspects connected with this incident. Members of the UCV community suspect that individuals connected with pro-government groups carried out the attack.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the targeted destruction of university property apparently intended to intimidate members of higher education community. The destruction of campus property harms 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 hold perpetrators responsible. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).