Graffiti is Venezuela’s New Tool of Fear
The recent appearance of threatening graffiti targeting political, social and student leaders in Venezuela is a previously unknown tactic in the country, although it is similar to commonplace practices among Colombian criminal groups.
On May 10, the walls of 26 homes and businesses in 10 states across the country were daubed with threatening messages against opponents of the Nicolás Maduro regime. Most graffiti were signed by armed ‘colectivos’(paramilitary groups linked to the government), also dedicated to criminal activities such as contract killings, extortion, drug sales and kidnapping, among others.
The images recalled practices by Colombian armed groups, such as the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN), that marked the residences of their enemies and potential victims with graffiti.
These graffitied threats, which have gone unpunished, show yet another way in which the State has delegated power to criminal groups.
Carlos Javier Arencibia – Coordinator of Popular Will (Voluntad Popular) – State of Miranda
Arencibia is a journalist and university professor who was formerly a municipal councilor in Carrizal, Miranda, under the administration of José Luis Rodríguez, who is now a leader of the opposition A New Time (Un Nuevo Tiempo) party.
Sergio Vergara – Deputy to the National Assembly – State of Táchira
After the threat was written against him, Vergara took to Twitter to denounce that “the desperate Dictatorship is trying to frighten and sow terror. They will not succeed. They only feed the certainty that the end is coming and that their options are exhausted. Last night, they marked my house as they did with other deputies of the Assembly. We continue alongside the citizens of Venezuela!”
Elías Tartak – Member of Broad Front for a Free Venezuela (Frente Amplio por una Venezuela Libre) – State of Miranda
The threats were written on the walls of two businesses belonging to the businessman and social leader: a small cable television company and a perfume and cosmetics store. Both threats were signed by Colectivo Activo.
Emilio Mirabal – Local Counselor for Justice First (Primer Justicia) – State of Anzoátegui
The message, accusing Mirabal of being a fascist, was signed by the Communist Train (Tren Comunista) group. The leader stated he had been targeted by phone and social media threats for several weeks.
Frankin Landaez – Member of Broad Front for a Free Venezuela (Frente Amplio por una Venezuela Libre) – State of Miranda
The businessman explained that the judiciary police have not allowed him to make a formal complaint as such a threat is not listed as a crime in Venezuela’s Penal Code.