On November 3, 2022, members of a pro-government militia reportedly attacked students at the Universidad de Los Andes in Merida as they engaged in a peaceful protest against the presence on campus of senior government officials.
The students had gathered on campus to protest a visit by Diosdado Cabello, a member of Venezuela’s National Assembly aligned with Venezuela’s ruling socialist government, along with other senior officials. The demonstration was peaceful; however, police intervened to disperse the crowd, and a pro-government militia known as the MRT Colectivo reportedly attacked several protesters, reportedly ripping out their fingernails, and taking and tearing a banner held by some students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force against peaceful student protesters. While state security forces have a responsibility to maintain order and safety, they must do so in a manner respectful of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and academic freedom. Likewise, while private individuals including members of militias have the right to engage in nonviolent counter-protest activities, they have an obligation to do so in a nonviolent manner. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of force against peaceful student protesters undermines democratic society.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)