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The face of a new threat to Venezuela?

June 9, 2006 | Page 8

I AM a United States citizen living and working in Merida, Venezuela, reporting on what appears to be the face of U.S.-backed efforts to destabilize the democratically elected Venezuelan government.

Recently, a heavily armed opposition student organization has held violent protests in the city of Merida. Using handguns, shotguns and Uzis, they have repeatedly attacked the police and the National Guard leaving between 26 and 36 wounded, at least two of those critically.

The organization is called the Movimiento 13 de Marzo (M-13, not to be confused with the Chavista Movimiento 13 de Abril M-13a) and has repeatedly worked to destabilize the city and country in collaboration with pro-coup anti-Chávez opposition groups.

The proclaimed reason for the protest is the ULA (University of the Andes) student elections, which were postponed when the Supreme Court ruled that the administration and faculty of the ULA were exerting unjust influence on the election and should not make up four of the five members of the elections monitoring committee. The M-13 claims that this is a violation of the ULA's autonomy and that, although the Venezuelan judicial system is independent, the executive branch is responsible.

The reality is that the M-13 and its leader Nixon Moreno (who has been a "student" at the ULA for 15 years) are attempting to create chaos before the presidential election this December and to incite the universities to rise up in opposition to a contrived attack on their autonomy.

For the moment, this plan has failed, and almost none of the other universities have responded. The M-13's tactics of unprecedented violence strongly indicate that they were looking for a student death in order to inflame the country.

During the protests, members of M-13 chased down, stripped naked, beat and attempted to rape policewoman Sofía Aguilar at gunpoint. She has identified Nixon Moreno as the man who shot her partner and a member of the group who then beat him into a coma before she was assaulted.

Between the protests, members of the M-13 held a pistol to the head of a female member of the Juventude Comunista (JC, Communist Youth) and forced her to reveal the addresses of other JC members, one of whom they have severely beaten.

Although there is a long history of violence during protests in Merida, it has consisted of rock throwing and the occasional Molotov cocktail. Never have students come out so heavily armed and shot so many people without any provocation or escalation. It is widely suspected that the arms and expensive elections materials possessed by the M-13 have been directly provided by, or bought with resources provided by, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield or the CIA.

Nixon Moreno is in close contact with the opposition ex-governor of Merida, William Dávila, and reportedly has met at least once in a Merida hotel with Brownfield. The U.S. ties to this terrorist group are important in understanding U.S. support of opposition movements in western Venezuela.

Please help expose what is going on here and to inform your communities and contacts.
Josué Wilson, Merida, Venezuela

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