Children armed with assault weapons spark controversy in Venezuela(Read article summary)
President Hugo Chavez has condemned photos of children posing with assault rifles at a pro-government group's event. But the opposition still blames Chavez.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Insightcrime.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
Colectivo La Piedrita is a pro-Chavez group based in western Caracas which bills itself as a community political organization but which Chavez himself has previously denounced (in Spanish). On January 23, La Piedrita celebrated the anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez in 1958.
This week, photos emerged which appear to have been taken at the event and posted on the group’s Facebook page, showing children carrying M-16 assault rifles. The children are wearing bandanas and seated in front of a mural depicting Jesus and the Virgin Mary holding Kalashnikovs. Other photos, seemingly from the same event, suggest that Venezuelan congressman Robert Serra was present, indicating some level of official support for the display.
The release of the photos caused something of a political firestorm in Venezuela. Potential presidential opposition politician Pablo Perez (in Spanish) criticized the photos, saying: "Instead of guns, these children should have a computer, a book, a bat, a ball, a glove, or a musical instrument."
The Chavez administration itself has condemned the images, with Interior Minister Tarek El-Aissami calling them “morally reprehensible" (in Spanish).