Venezuelans breaking coronavirus rules punished under the sun | The Daily Star
11:04 AM, August 08, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:07 AM, August 08, 2020

Venezuelans breaking coronavirus rules punished under the sun

Roberto Vargas was heading to buy flour with his children in Caracas on Thursday when he lowered his face mask to wipe sweat from his face, he said. A National Guard officer noticed and ordered him to spend 50 minutes sat on the roadside with several dozen others, the builder recounted.

"This is madness," he told Reuters in the Caracas slum of Petare, just after completing his penalty.

Local rights groups say authorities are handing out such punishments around the country for infractions ranging from not queuing correctly for groceries to disobeying curfews.

One group, Provea, on July 31 posted a video on Twitter apparently showing a soldier in western Tachira state ordering three young men to do pushups while saying "I should not be in the street."

In some cases, security forces have used violence as a form of discipline, Provea says. On July 22, it posted another video on Twitter, which had been circulating on social media, saying it showed three men being hit on their legs with a baseball bat for breaking coronavirus measures.

Venezuela's Information Ministry did not respond to a request to comment about the videos, which Reuters was unable to independently verify.

'CRUEL AND INHUMAN'

But chief prosecutor Tarek Saab reacted to the baseball bat video by saying authorities would investigate the "cruel and inhuman treatment" and a week later said the person responsible had been identified and charged with assault.

Saab named the person but did not say where he worked.

The punishments, opposition lawmakers and rights groups say, are another example of how President Nicolas Maduro has militarized his government's response to the pandemic, deploying forces widely accused of human rights violations including torture, extrajudicial killings and extortion.

Maduro has publicly thanked the military for "doing battle" with Covid-19. He has previously said his security forces have been subject to an international defamation campaign.

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