Original text in Spanish: Erick S. González Caldea [El Estímulo, 12/02/2019] | Cover photo: Funeral of Yonaiker Ordoñez, another teenager reportedly killed by Venezuelan special police force. Photo by Meredith Kohut for the New York Times, 30/01/2019.
On the night of January 22, 2019, 19-year-old Alixon Dos Santos protested against Maduro on Sucre Avenue in Catia. He was shot in the heart and his family and friends say it’s another Special Action Forces (FAES) crime.
A courageous aunt is ready to fight impunity.
A coat of paint was intended to bury Alixon Dos Santos Pizani again, the first man killed during the most recent wave of anti-government demonstrations. They wanted to erase evidence that, although not “of criminalistic interest,” it demonstrated the revulsion to the police brutality unleashed against those who protest in the popular neighbourhoods of Caracas.
The young man’s Novena [nine days of mourning and masses after a person’s death) was not over yet when workers from the Caracas mayor’s office, along with members of “the collectives” operating in the area, desecrated the mural painted at the entrance to Cútira. The mural had been created by friends of the 19-year-old in his honour. Alixon was murdered on the 22nd of January, 2019, at the hands of officials from the Special Action Forces (FAES in Spanish), part of the Bolivarian National Police, according to family members and neighbours.
The mural incident was another blow to Navia Troloro Pizani, Alixon’s aunt, who is hardened by pain. The 45-year-old woman does not cry and, as she tells her nephew’s story, keeps her gaze fixed on the altar she erected in a corner of her house: five photographs of the boy crowned with the Venezuelan flag.
“I will not rest until justice is done for my nephew’s case. They didn’t kill a dog, or a delinquent. It was a young worker, a warm man who many are mourning today,” she recalled.
She said Alixon worked “at Oswaldo’s”, a neighbour’s bakery. And that he was very attached to his grandmother. “They even slept in the same bed,” Navia says, while she prepares a cup of coffee. Next to him, the 70-year-old nods: “When he was born, he caught a bacteria. He survived, almost miraculously. He lived with us ever since. I raised that little boy.
“Entering the house and not seeing him hurts me a lot. When he sat on that chair – she signals with her hand – I used to smack him as I passed by. It was my way of showing him affection. And how could I not love him and miss him, when I even breast-fed him”, says the aunt who, only for an instant, is overcome by emotion.
Alixon’s funeral lasted for three days. It took place in the house where he grew up, in the upper part of Alta Vista. It was his family’s decision. “I didn’t want to be separated from him. Also, the neighbours needed to say goodbye to my boy. In fact, the street got blocked because of the many people who came”, Navia said.
Alixon was buried in the same tomb where his maternal grandfather’s remains lie, at the General del Sur Cemetery, on Saturday, 26th of January, 10 am. According to the Provea database and the Venezuelan Social Conflict Observatory, the young man is one of the 11 people killed by police officers and alleged “collectives” in the Capital District during popular demonstrations against Nicolás Maduro.
SHOT IN THE HEART
Alixon Dos Santos studied at the Miguel Antonio Caro Educational Unit on Sucre Avenue. He was murdered right in front of the school. He began working when he was 15 years old. “He practically supported my mother with his job. The day of his wake, we took him to the bakery at Mr. Oswaldo’s request. He was also very saddened. He wanted his boy to visit the place where he worked one last time,” the aunt said.
“They won’t shut me up. I will not rest until I know that justice was done for this murder. I promised Alixon and asked him to send me the strength to do whatever is necessary”
“That night – recalls Navia Pizani – I was at home, distracted, checking social media. I didn’t know that less than a kilometre down the hill, several neighbours had come out to demonstrate against Maduro’s government. Much less that FAES officials were repressing the protesters.”
At 9:30 pm, a man on a motorcycle approached her house and shouted from the street: “Nivia, Nivia, Alixon was shot! ” Stop the bullshit, this is not a game,” the woman replied. In seconds, her disbelief turned into bewilderment when she saw the messenger crying. The sight prompted her to get on the motorcycle on the way to the Catia Peripheral Hospital.
As she entered the emergency room, a line of doctors and nurses led her to the stretcher where her nephew’s lifeless body laid, covered to the head with a white sheet. A shot to the heart (the impact was on the left hemithorax) put an end to the life of the 19-year-old.
“The doctors only said that some protesters driving a motorcycle had brought him in,” Nivia points out. And she also recalls how right there in the hospital, several of the boys who had been near Alixon when he was hit by a bullet were screaming in anger: “It was the FAES, it was the FAES! We saw them, with their uniforms and weapons. Everyone in these neighbourhoods recognizes them.
STEADFAST AGAINST IMPUNITY
“They won’t shut me up. I will not rest until I know that justice was done for this murder. I promised Alixon and asked him to send me the strength to do whatever is necessary,” says Alixon’s aunt.
The relatives have not yet formalized the accusation of murder, as first they want to “put a file together,” gathering evidence to prove that FAES officials are responsible.
“Nowhere in the records says that he was killed by the FAES. But there are many witnesses, protesters, who saw everything. It’s a fact. We are doing everything we can to make sure this case doesn’t go unpunished. When we saw that they covered the mural, it was very painful. It’s as if they wanted to cover the sun with a finger,” she said.
The FAES have a bad reputation in Catia. And although there is fear, the people of Cútira are convinced. “Yes, that night of January 22, the FAES arrived here and shot at the boys who were demonstrating in the street,” said a street vendor in the sector.
The government itself has denounced these men, who carry out raids and murders in the popular areas of the country. “The FAES does not represent the necessary mission of the SPECIAL GROUPS! They are not SECURITY PROFESSIONALS! On the contrary! They generate fear, they torture, they do not respect the law, they execute, they simulate. They are not of the spirit of the Bolivarian revolution @NestorReverol @NicolasMaduro”, wrote on her twitter account Soraya El Achkar, secretary of the extinct National Commission for Police Reform, on September 19, 2018.
The media alliance and NGO, Victim Monitor, has found the FAES to be the country’s most lethal police agency. From its creation in 2017 up to July 2018, 213 murders by the elite body of the PNB were documented in the Metropolitan Area of Caracas alone. And as of November last year, another 124 homicides have been reportedly committed, 31% of which were in the capital region. Meanwhile, Provea published a special report documenting 205 murders attributed to the FAES during 2018.
Lara is one of the most hard-hit states in the country. The Lara State Human Rights Network denounced that since August 2018 the FAES have committed approximately 100 extrajudicial executions, covered as alleged confrontations and officially registered as cases of “resistance to authority”.
Despite the terror caused by the FAES, there are those who do not resign themselves to police brutality and death taking its toll. “Even if Alixon’s mural has been erased, even if those FAES bastards came back here to terrify the whole neighbourhood, I will do everything possible to stop them from killing more kids like they did to my nephew,” promises Nivia Troloro Pizani.
*Work published by El Estímulo in alliance with Proiuris