Three Venezuelan activists have been arrested for making a powerful video that challenges rank-and-file soldiers to question their loyalties to a government that has them living in the same conditions of economic hardship as the protesters they're deployed to repress in the streets.
The 60-second dramatization features a girl who finds her mother sick in bed, and texts her dad to say there say there's no medicine. She then opens the near-empty fridge and texts her dad again, saying she'll have to wait in a long line outside the supermarket to see if she can find some cheap food. The video then cuts to her dad, a Venezuelan soldier dressed in full riot gear, who's being sent into the street to battle a group of anti-government protesters complaining about the same issues.
“Dad, please remember that the people you are being told to repress are going through the same as us,” the girl says in her final text. “This cannot last, and you know it.”
The politically charged video went viral last weekend after it was published on the social media accounts of opposition party Justice First. Venezuela's unpopular government was not impressed with the popularity of the video.
On Tuesday, Justice First said three activists who were involved in producing the video were arrested by Venezuela's intelligence services and are being held at a military base on charges of inciting rebellion.
The Caracas Chronicles blog reported that police were searching for a fourth activist, who apparently participated in the video's costume design.
The string of arrests, government critics say, are the latest sign that Venezuela's government is becoming increasingly authoritarian as the country unravels.
In August a high profile opposition activist was arrested without a warrant and accused of trying to overthrow the government through violent means. A week later a website editor was arrested after publishing videos of hungry protesters chasing President Nicolas Maduro out of a small town.
According to the human-rights organization Venezuelan Penal Forum there are currently 96 political prisoners in the country.
The crackdown comes as the opposition struggles to organize a recall referendum on President Maduro. The country's electoral board this week ruled that there can be no referendum until next year. That ruling helps Venezuela's socialist party to stay in power, because the country's constitution says that if the president gets booted next year, he would simply be replaced by his vice president. A referendum this year would lead to a new election if Maduro were removed.
A recent poll shows 88% of Venezuelan voters would vote to remove Maduro in a referendum.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.