Venezuela: Photos of Armed Children Spark Controversy

Image via Eduardo Ponte @acaballoregalao on yfrog

February 4, 2012 /Photography News/ Seated beneath a mural of Jesus Christ holding a gun, children aged 3 to 7, covering their faces with political bandanas display assault rifles as adults proudly stand beside them. These pictures were posted on Facebook and Twitter by a radical political group based in a working class neighbourhood of the Venezuelan capital. 

The group in question, the La Piedrita Collective, controls the 23 de Enero parish in Caracas, a neighbourhood that has been a leftwing stronghold for decades and is where Venezuela President Hugo Chávez - whom the collective claims to support - casts his vote during elections.

Hugo Chávez, who has a reputation for courting controversy, drew the line this week and condemned the widely circulated photos, calling the members of La Piedrita irresponsible.  

After the scandal erupted, some of the women who appear in the photographs with the armed children released a video filmed in a classroom with the young pupils holding up books on Venezuelan history and the country’s constitution, in which they state, 'These are the weapons we give to our children.' 

In a country where homicide rates have drawn comparison to war zones, the photos have sparked heated debate over Venezuela's fractured politics and the role of the self-proclaimed "revolutionary" government in encouraging an armed civilian defense force, which officials have said total as many as 150,000 strong. The photos were also a start-off point for a march organized by the same collective, La Piedrita, through which they demanded respect for the children in the photographs.

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