Merida

“La Manada” (The Wolf Pack) is the name of a WhatsApp group chosen by five men to organise a trip to los sanfermines — the running of the bulls — in Pamplona, Navarra. During the festival, in the early hours of July 7, 2016, they gang raped an 18-year-old woman in a small room under the stairwell of a block of flats.

Three hours later, one of them shared a video of the attack in another male-only WhatsApp group with 28 members, called “Danger”. One of the five was an off-duty National Guard officer, another a soldier. During the trial, evidence of another attack committed by four of the five several months earlier was uncovered.

Despite this, although the trial found the men guilty of sexual abuse, it cleared them of rape.

Incumbent presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro prioritised visits to dissatisfied campesino communities over April 28-29 as part of a campaign strategy aimed at shoring up support in rural communities that have traditionally voted overwhelmingly for both ex-president Hugo Chavez and Maduro.

The countryside represents a critical constituency for the government in the upcoming May 20 election.

Venezuelan workers’ organisations have denounced illegal arrests, firings and persecution in the Lacteos Los Andes state-run dairy company and private Venevision TV station. Meanwhile, campesino (peasant) leaders in Barinas state were freed and authorised to return to their land after persecution by an ex-land owner.

Across Venezuela, commune activists are creating regional Presidential Councils of Communal Governance in order to play an greater role in the management of local and regional affairs in conjunction with national authorities.

Communes in Venezuela are made up of representatives of groups of smaller communal councils. These councils are direct participatory organisations that help manage community affairs. Communes cover a larger territorial area than communal councils and can receive public funds for larger scale projects and responsibilities.

Activists from across Venezuela met this month to form the National Communard Council, which aims to coordinate the country’s commune movement and present its demands to the national government.

The council was formed in the western state of Lara during a three-day meeting of about 2000 communards (commune members) from around the country. Most represented a particular commune.

The meeting was the fifth national gathering of the independent National Communard Network since the organisation was founded in 2009.

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