Venezuela: Who Are They and How Did They Die? [Updated]

February 24, 2014

[3/12: This post is no longer being updated. For a updated list, please click here.]

The morning of February 22, Venezuela Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz stated that so far eight deaths and 137 injuries had occurred during the protests that have taken place over the last ten days. Díaz added that “the investigations [into the killings] are advanced.” Many press and NGOs have simply reported that “demonstrators” were killed.  For example the International Crisis Group states in its February 21 report: “confrontation in Venezuela has turned violent in the past few days with the killing of six demonstrators.” However, a closer look at the individuals identified as having been killed reveals that the political allegiances of the victims and their causes of death are varied.  

Since Díaz’s announcement more deaths related to the protests have been reported in the media. Here, first, are details regarding seven of the deaths that Díaz referred to in her statements:

–          Bassil Alejandro Da Costa, an opposition demonstrator was shot, reportedly in the head, and killed  in Caracas during the opposition protest that took place on February 12. The Attorney General announced Friday that an investigation into the killing is close to finished and will be made public in the coming days. An analysis of amateur video and images by the Venezuelan newspaper Últimas Noticias alleges that uniformed and plainclothes members of the Venezuelan intelligence service (SEBIN) were responsible.  The video images show what appear to be SEBIN agents in uniform as well as individuals in plain-clothes firing handguns toward the demonstration after demonstrators had charged at them while throwing rocks.  President Maduro later stated that SEBIN agents weren’t authorized to be present at the protest and replaced the  head of SEBIN.  At least one of the SEBIN officers seen discharging his weapon has reportedly been arrested and, according to Venezuelan media, authorities are engaged in a manhunt to apprehend the other individuals observed firing their handguns. [Update 2/25: According to Attorney General Díaz, three SEBIN officers have been arrested in relation to the killing of Da Costa and Montoya, see below for more.] [Update 3/4: On February 26, the Attorney General announced additional arrests in relation to the deaths of Da Costa and Montoya. In total, at least 8 individuals have been arrested.]

–          Juan Montoya, a pro-government community activist, was reportedly shot in both the head and chest and died. Montoya’s body was found a short distance from the body of Da Costa. It remains unclear how he was killed but Maduro stated that the same gun killed both Montoya and Da Costa.

–          Later in the day on February 12, Roberto Redman, another opposition demonstrator was also shot, reportedly in the head, and killed. The killing took place in a neighborhood in eastern Caracas. Redman was allegedly shot by an unidentified gunman on a motorbike.

 –         On February 18 José Ernesto Méndez, a 17-year-old student who was participating in a demonstration in the Sucre department, was hit by a truck and later died. The Attorney General stated that the driver of the truck has been apprehended and charged with homicide

–          On the same day Genesis Carmona, a student and beauty queen was shot and killed in the state of Carabobo. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the she was shot from behind, potentially from within the group she was protesting with, though others contest that version of events. The government has pledged a full investigation.  

–          On February 20, Arturo Alexis Martínez, the brother of a ruling party legislator, was reportedly shot in the chest as he attempted to clear a path for his car amidst the debris left by a barricade following an opposition protest in Lara state. Witnesses allege that the shot that killed him was fired from a nearby building. 

–          Julio Gonzalez, a member of the public ministry in Carabobo reportedly died after crashing his vehicle while attempting to avoid a roadblock put up by protesters.   The exact date of his death has not been reported.

–          The identity of the eighth deceased individual in the Attorney General’s tally remains unclear.  Additional deaths have reportedly occurred since Díaz made her statement. [Update 2/25: The individual has been identified as Asdrúbal Rodríguez. He was reportedly arrested for attempting to steal a motorcycle and then was found dead the next day. The arrest and killing occurred in Chacao. It is unclear if the police officers from Chacao that have been arrested were found responsible for this. More details, below.]

–          On the night of February 21, a 29-year-old man on a motorbike was beheaded by a wire strung across the Rómulo Gallegos Avenue in Caracas.  The wire had allegedly been put there by protesters who had set up a road block in the same location earlier that evening.  It is unclear whether the deceased man, identified as Elvis Rafael Durán De La Rosa*, has links to the opposition or to the government.  Photos have been published of other locations in Caracas where protesters have stretched wires across the streets in an apparent effort to impede the passage of motorcyclists who are alleged to attack motorists.  Authorities have accused retired general Angél Omar Vivas Perdomo of having encouraged protesters to put wires across streets and have ordered his detention. 

–          The governor of Mérida state announced on February 21 that a 37-year-old woman named Delia Elena Lobo had died the previous evening in the city of Mérida in similar circumstances to De La Rosa.  The woman was heading home on a motorbike and ran into barbed wire stretched across a street.  Those responsible are still at large.

–          On the evening of February 21, Jose Alejandro Márquez*, a protester who had his skull fractured in a clash with National Guard units earlier that day in Caracas was pronounced brain dead. 

–          On February 22nd, Geraldine Moreno, a 23-year-old protester who had been injured by bird shot during a protest in Carabobo state a few days earlier reportedly died from head injuries. 

Additionally, there have been reports of emergency vehicles being prevented from reaching hospitals by roadblocks and protesters, resulting in at least one death.

[Update 2/25: On Feb. 24, Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz made another statement with more updates on the deaths, as well as the status of investigations and arrests. Díaz stated that there had been 13 deaths (one more than listed above) and 149 injuries. She added that 579 people had been detained, with 45 remaining in jail. Of the 45 that remain in jail, 9 are members of the Venezuela security forces, including three members of SEBIN, three members of the GNB, two from themetropolitan police in Chacao and one member Mérida police force. Further, Díaz confirmed that the Public Ministry has processed 12 human rights violations in relation to the protests. The additional death confirmed by Díaz:

–           On February 23 in San Cristobal Danny Melgarejo, a local student, was stabbed to death. The mayor said that the killing was related to a robbery, and not the student’s participation in protests.

Also yesterday, local and international media reported two more deaths. Attorney General Díaz announced today that the Public Ministry is launching an investigation into both of the deaths.

–           The Public Ministry stated that a preliminary investigation found that Wilmer Carballo was killed by a shot to the head in Sucre state. Local press reports that he was killed while protesting.

–           The other death reported by the Public Ministry was Jimmy Vargas. The New York Times reported today that, “Two people were killed on Monday, including a man here in San Cristóbal who, according to his family, fell from a roof after guardsmen shot tear gas at him.” An accompanying photo gallery contains photos of Vargas’s family. The caption reads, “Carmen Gonzalez, 58, cried over the body of her son, who was killed Monday in clashes with the police.” Exclusive video released by CNN en Espanol, however, shows that the death of Vargas was an accident.]

[Update 3/4: The Attorney General announced on Friday, February 28 that there had been 17 killed in violence associated with the protests. Further, that there had been 261 injured and that 72 people have been arrested, of which 35 percent are students. Many more have been detained and subsequently released. With the killing of a National Guardsman on February 28, the total now stands at 18.]

–             On the night February 25, a 29-year old motorcycle driver crashed into a barricade set up by protesters and died. The public ministry has identified the individual as Eduardo Ramón Anzona Carmona

–             Also on February 25, in El Límon, Jhoan Gabriel Quintero Carrasco was shot and killed near a supermarket where looting was taking place.

–             Giovanny José Hernández Pantoja, a member of the GNB, was shot and killed in Valencia. News reports indicate he was removing a barricade when he was shot. The death occurred on Friday, February 28.

[Update 3/7]:

–             On Tuesday, March 4 Luis Gutiérrez Camargo crashed into a barricade and died in the state of Tachira.

–             On Thursday, March 6, a National Guardsman, Acner López Lyon, was shot and killed during an altercation in Los Ruices, a neighborhood in Caracas. News reports indicate that the National Guard was removing a barricade that was blocking a main avenue.

–             In the same altercation that took the life of Lyon, a mototaxista, José Gregorio Amaris Castillo, was shot and killed. The Attorney General has announced an investigation into the two deaths.

[Update 3/11]:

–             On the night of March 9, Giselle Rubilar Figueroa, a Chilean citizen, was reportedly shot and killed by protesters in Merida.

–             On the night of March 10, a student protester, Daniel Tinoco was shot and killed in San Cristobal. It is unclear who was responsible, though press reports indicate that the killing occurred after a day of clashes between the national guard, which was trying to remove barricades in San Cristobal, and protesters.

*The name has been changed as it was originally misreported.

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