Ex-boss of Venezuela president mourns son killed in unrest

David Vallenilla, father of a 22 year old protester shot and killed by a military officer, is demanding justice from President Nicolas Maduro, who once earned his living as a bus driver and was one of his employees (AFP Photo/JUAN BARRETO) (AFP)

Caracas (AFP) - Among many people mourning the death of a child in street protests against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro is his former boss, from back when the president was a bus driver.

The mourner is David Vallenilla, whose son David died last Thursday when he was hit with buck shot fired by a soldier at point blank range.

He remembers Maduro back in the day as a reasonable guy, one who was easy to get along with. Vallenilla says he has been told Maduro the president will call him. But so far the president has not placed that call.

The son, David Vallenilla junior, 22, was among a group of youths who were throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at an air force base east of Caracas.

That same day the president had told the authorities they could not use firearms or buck shot against protesters.

Nearly three months of street protests in Venezuela -- hit by a dire economic crisis that has led to shortages of food, medicine and other basics like soap and toilet paper -- have left 76 people dead.

Maduro said the authorities could only use water cannon "and a little tear gas" to put down protests.

The government says legal proceedings have been opened against the soldier that shot the young Vallenilla and other possible suspects in his death.

Vallenilla the father retired from the Caracas public transport system in 2007 and these days at age 56 works as a lawyer.

In an interview with AFP, he said he has yet to forgive anyone for the death of his only child, who had just finished studies to become a nurse. The young man's parents wanted him to go live in Spain.

- 'Fight for something different' -

- What was David like?

"Hyperactive, tremendous and in love with life. I love that kind of courage that disregards measuring how far one can go. It is young people who hold that internal courage to go out and fight for something different."

- Did he belong to any political party?

"Never. But he did not go along with what was happening in the country. He only knew one kind of government.

"We love baseball. It is our passion. The differences that divided us Venezuelans were just about sports. Sadly, these days, in our households there are differences, there is distance, among siblings, over politics."

- Did you and your wife know that he was going to protest marches?

"Every day we would tell him, 'when you get off work, go straight home.' He would say to me, 'Dad, relax.' But he still went to the protests."

- Not ready -

- How do you handle the flood of video and photos on social media of the instant in which he was killed?

"I have not seen any of it. All I know is what my relatives have told me. But I am sure they have not told me everything. I do not want to see the footage. I am not ready."

- What do you think of the way the authorities are behaving?

"The authorities' line is, 'a little water and little bit of tear gas.' But they did not kill my son with water and tear gas. Otherwise they would not have removed four pieces of lead buck shot from his body. Lead, not plastic. I saw it.

"To the person who shot him, I say, 'why didn't you shoot at his feet so he would fall down?' But they shot him in the chest, the heart, the liver and the lungs. They knew it would kill him."

- 'Nicolas: people are hungry' -

- When did you know the president?

"From 1994 to 2000. I speak of him as 'Nicolas,' a workplace colleague. That is how I knew him. He was a bus driver in Caracas. I was the supervisor. We had a professional relationship. I never had any problems with him.

"As a colleague Nicolas was very balanced, a person you could talk to. That is why I want to talk to him. They told me he was going to call but he has not called me."

- Do you see a difference between Maduro the colleague and Maduro as president?

"He was a man who fought for better working conditions for his colleagues. These days I know that is not easy.

"I want to tell him: Nicolas, people are suffering and you must sit down and think about what needs to change. Forget about your position. Listen! It is not just a small group of people. Almost all of Venezuela has trouble finding food and medicine. We have a country that is rich, but people who are hungry."


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