“We need to keep fighting,” said Maribel Perez, a member of a grassroots movement that has organized marches, rallies and protests.
“I will be silenced,” she said.
“We will not allow the police to kill us.”
More: ‘You are the most powerful’: Venezuelan women’s rights activists on how to fight back against threats and abuse.
The Venezuelan government has repeatedly blamed women for carrying out the violence.
The Venezuelan president has called on Venezuelans to fight against violence and terrorism, including by “unmasking” and “re-enacting” the protests.
But a new investigation released this week by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that the government’s anti-terror operation has been a major contributor to violence.
The government says it has been working with domestic intelligence agencies to disrupt “criminal elements” who carry out “terrorist acts”, but critics say the crackdown is only targeting the most violent of the demonstrators.
“The government is targeting the groups that are actually the most dangerous,” said Carlos Gaviria, a professor of political science at the University of Caracas.
“They are targeting the social groups that have the most power in the country.
They are targeting all of the political and social networks.
They’re targeting all the organizations that are working to create the social crisis that we’re facing in Venezuela.”
Women’s rights groups say the government is increasingly targeting them and other activists.
The National Coalition Against Violence against Women (CNVAW) said in a statement that its “anti-terrorism strategy” had become increasingly aggressive since the end of 2014, when President Nicolas Maduro launched a massive nationwide crackdown on civil society.
It called on the government to end the “state of emergency” it has imposed on the country, which has made it difficult for NGOs to operate.
“We demand that the Venezuelan government end its state of emergency and allow us to conduct our activities, that we be given the rights we deserve and that we not be targeted,” said CNVAW spokesperson Yvonne Rodríguez.
“This is a war of terror and we will not stop until we achieve justice.”‘
We can’t live with this’: Activists fight back amid government crackdownMore: The Venezuelan government insists the anti-terrorism campaign is aimed at “terrorists”, but many activists say the “counterterror” operations have targeted the most vulnerable in society, including women and people of colour.
In an interview with Al Jazeera last year, Chavista leader Nicolás Maduro said the government was waging a war against “terror”.
“We are fighting against the enemy,” he said.
“That’s why we are fighting terrorism, because we are attacking the most innocent.”
Human Rights Watch has found evidence that Venezuela’s security forces have used “enhanced interrogation techniques” against activists, and that several human rights activists have been detained for allegedly “suspected” links to the opposition.
In a separate case, the government has been accused of detaining a woman who was reportedly tortured by security forces, including with electric shocks, and allegedly denied her rights.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has also documented numerous cases of torture and arbitrary detention in Venezuela.
Human Rights watch also found that security forces in the southern state of Tachira have been responsible for extrajudicial killings, including torture, in connection with protests.
The state of Carabobo, home to the country’s largest oil reserves, is among the worst-hit by the violence, which began in April last year when opposition activists and local farmers staged a hunger strike.
Since then, opposition protesters have been arrested, beaten and jailed.
Many have died in the crackdown, including in February this year when at least 25 protesters died after being beaten to death by the security forces.
In the face of mounting criticism, President Maduro has blamed the countrys “economic and political crisis” for the country s escalating violence, but critics point to a string of corruption scandals and a lack of transparency surrounding the security operations.
The crackdown has sparked widespread condemnation from human rights groups.
“These events highlight the urgent need to ensure that any abuses of power are promptly and fully investigated, prosecuted and punished,” HRW said in its report.
“Government policies have failed to protect people from violence, as the government continues to deploy the armed forces to crush protests and arrest dissenters.”