Police in riot gear opened fire with what appeared to be tear gas. A Molotov cocktail sparked a fire atop an armored National Guard vehicle. It backed away from the crowd. Protesters surrounded two members of the security forces.
The armored vehicle, flames spitting from its roof, plowed into the crowd. A young man, his head covered in a white rag, fell in front of the truck. A video camera captured the horror as someone in the crowd yelled, “Son of a —–!”
The truck rolled over 22-year-old Pedro Michell Yaminne. The moment was captured on video by a journalist.
Interior and justice minister Nestor Reverol told reporters this week that the “lamentable” incident was under investigation. Referring to the protesters as “terrorists,” Reverol said that moments before Yaminne was run over, demonstrators hurled a Molotov cocktail at the armored vehicle, opened the side door and “brutally assaulted” the driver. He showed a video of the assault to make his point.
At least 36 people have died and more than 700 have been injured in protests in the last month, the Venezuelan prosecutor’s office reported. Half the deaths occurred in the capital of a country mired in economic crisis and political instability. The victims included four teenagers, a National Guard member and a police officer.
Yaminne barely survived, his mother, Maria, told CNN.
He emerged from beneath the truck with multiple fractures and a collapsed lung, his mother said.
A pair of protesters dragged Yaminne, his face still covered, away from the hulking military truck. Tear gas canisters littered the street.
Yaminne’s condition is stable but delicate, his mother said. A ventilator aids his breathing.
“He has opened his eyes and is communicating with hand signals,” she said.
The young photographer had witnessed the fatal shooting three years ago of a university student named Bassil Da Costa during a protest against the government and had vowed to continue the struggle, she said.
Yaminne loves Venezuela, his mother said. He wants it to emerge from a crisis brought on in part by food and medical shortages and soaring prices. She doesn’t believe her son was involved in the assault on the military vehicle.
“He’s a poet, a photographer,” Maria Yaminne said. “He’s not aggressive. He wants to build up Venezuela, not destroy it.”
Protesters and government forces have faced off daily, with unrest fueled by the government’s “heavy-handed measures and suppression of dissenting voices,” said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
A protest planned for Saturday has been dubbed the Mothers of Venezuela March. Maria Yaminne, however, will remain at her son’s bedside.