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Children armed with assault weapons spark controversy in Venezuela

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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Insightcrime.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

Images of children armed with what look like assault weapons have sparked a heated debate in Venezuela over President Hugo Chavez’s support for armed militias in the country.

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.

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