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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Recent journalism graduate killed during protests in Caracas, Venezuela



The Venezuelan journalism community is rallying for justice for young social communicator Miguel Castillo who was killed during a recent protest in Caracas.

Castillo, 27, died on May 10 after being hit in the arm by a round object that went into his torso. The Bolivarian National Guard (GNB for its acronym in Spanish) was repressing protesters in the area who had gathered to march to the Supreme Court, according to Crónica Uno. However, tear gas and pellets stopped the demonstrators, the site added.

Castillo graduated two months ago from Universidad Santa María with a degree in social communication. A classmate and a former professor told Crónica Uno that his dream was to be a sports journalist.

At his wake on May 11, his sister Luisa Castillo said "Miguel had a heart that was much larger than his body. He was unique, special, supportive," El Estímulo reported. A friend, Brunella Elizondo, said, "He always protested. You cannot stop a whirlwind, a being so active. If nobody wanted to do something, he went and did it. He did not remain silent about injustices," the site added.

The public prosecutor announced on Twitter that two attorneys would investigate Castillo’s death.

Ombudsman Tarek William Saab said he also appointed a commission to investigate the death.

National Assembly member Diosdado Cabello, said the GNB and the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) were not present at the scene of Castillo's death and that they were not responsible, according to site Efecto Cocuyo. Cabello is also vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the party of President Nicolás Maduro. 

Castillo has become another face of the deadly crisis in Venezuela that has left 46 dead in the context of protests for and against the current political administration.

On May 10 alone, ABC News reported that at least 93 people were injured in Caracas. The news company said that in addition to national guardsmen who were launching tear gas during Wednesday’s protest, “a group of armed pro-government militiamen harassed protesters as they tried to march to the Supreme Court.”

In Castillo’s memory, university students and fellow citizens marched on May 11 to the place where he died and held a mass on that spot, Efecto Cocuyo reported. The site quoted his mother, Carmen Elena Bracho, as saying, “All Miguel wanted was a free country where he could exercise his profession as social communicator. That was all he asked for, and for thinking differently, they killed him. I want to demand justice, and to the Government, please, stop the repression. They are killing Venezuelans, young Venezuelans.”

Just on May 9, Marco Ruiz, secretary general of the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP), told the National Assembly that journalists covering protests were suffering aggressions by security agencies.

"As repression against peaceful demonstrations has increased, repression against journalists and the media has increased. The person who represses, does not want to leave a mark of the excessive force that it’s using, does not want to leave evidence for the world of its image as violator of human rights,” Ruiz said, according to El Noticiero Digital.

SNTP has been reporting and posting photos of aggressions against journalists on its Twitter profile. It reported Castillo’s death and expressed solidarity with the young journalist’s family.

Following Castillo’s death and attacks on journalists during May 10 protests, the National Association of Journalists (CNP) of Venezuela said the “escalation of violence against journalists is unacceptable.” In a press release, the group said police are attacking not only protesters, but also journalists. However, it said attacks are also coming from small groups of protesters, “because in their opinion, these media do not faithfully broadcast information about events in Venezuela.”

“It is important that the ordinary citizen understands that every journalist takes to the streets in search of the news,” CNP wrote.



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