“You have to understand, in Venezuela gun ownership is not something that’s open to everybody.”
During a MSNBC segment Tuesday regarding the ongoing tumult in Venezuela, reporter Kerry Sanders responded to anchor Andrea Mitchell’s remarks by explaining that gun control measures instituted by the Venezuelan government years ago had allowed President Nicolas Maduro to remain in power.
“I think it has been surprising to a lot of people in Washington – in the administration at least – that this is taking longer than they thought. Despite the sanctions, despite the pressure, with the help of Russia and other outside forces, Maduro is hanging on,” Mitchell said in the report, which was flagged by the Washington Free Beacon.
“Not only hanging on but he appears to still control the military,” Sanders replied. “You have to understand, in Venezuela gun ownership is not something that’s open to everybody. So if the military have the guns, they have the power. And as long as Nicolas Maduro controls the military, he controls the country.”
Under the regime of Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor, Venezuela banned the commercial sale of firearms and ammunition in 2012, the BBC reported. Since then, private citizens have been prohibited from owning firearms, leaving the ability to purchase guns to state-approved groups such as the police, army and security companies.
In December, Fox News interviewed Venezuelan citizens who expressed regret over the gun ban’s effect on their ability to oppose what they characterized as an oppressive government.
“Guns would have served as a vital pillar to remaining a free people, or at least able to put up a fight,” Javier Vanegas, 28, a Venezuelan teacher of English now exiled in Ecuador, told Fox News at the time. “The government security forces, at the beginning of this debacle, knew they had no real opposition to their force. Once things were this bad, it was a clear declaration of war against an unarmed population.”
While citizens could receive 20-years in prison for not complying with the new law, Vanegas said people at the time didn’t see much of a reason to own guns anyway.
“Venezuelans didn’t care enough about it. The idea of having the means to protect your home was seen as only needed out in the fields. People never would have believed they needed to defend themselves against the government,” Vanegas said. “Venezuelans evolved to always hope that our government would be non-tyrannical, non-violator of human rights, and would always have a good enough control of criminality.”
Venegas explained that unlike in the United States, gun rights weren’t an ingrained part of Venezuelan political identity.
“If guns had been a stronger part of our culture, if there had been a sense of duty for one to protect their individual rights, and as a show of force against a government power – and had legal carry been a common thing – it would have made a huge difference,” he said.
Soldiers joined protestors in the streets of Caracas Tuesday in a bid to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó had earlier appeared at a military base in the heart of the capital and declared the start of Operation Liberty. Flanked by soldiers, he promised the military would side with the people in an uprising against “the dictator” Maduro.
“Today, brave soldiers, brave patriots, brave men attached to the Constitution have followed our call,” Guaidó said in a video from Generalissimo Francisco de Miranda Air Base and posted to social media. “The definitive end of the usurpation starts today.”
Live MSNBC coverage of Venezuelan upheaval showed a military vehicle reportedly mowing down anti-Maduro protesters.
“Why are the people here in Caracas so upset?” MSNBC host Craig Melvin asked Bloomberg reporter Andrew Rosati while live footage of protesters clashing with Venezuelan military appeared on screen.
“Venezuela is living one of the worst economic crises in recent memory – ” Rosati began to say, as footage showed a military truck driving into a crowd of protesters, apparently running over several of them.
“Okay. We should get off that picture on the left side of the screen,” Melvin said in response to the graphic images.
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