Children Posing with Assault Rifles to Support Chavez Sparks Outrage

It was a group of children, ages 3 to 7, celebrating Democracy Day in a Venezuelan school. They sang song of the revolution, pledged support for President Hugo Chavez and posed for photos.

But what has sparked outrage in this South American country is how they were photographed: the baby-faced children were brandishing assault rifles, their faced covered in revolutionary scarves. Behind them was a mural of Jesus Christ armed with an AK-47.

The shocking pictures were posted anonymously on Facebook and Twitter by a group in the slum town, La Piedrita of 23 de Enero, a stronghold of Chavez.  "La Piedrita," a radical group west of Caracas, has said it would take up arms if anyone tried to remove the president from office.

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“Instead of guns, these children should have a computer, a book, a bat, a ball a glove or a musical instrument,” said Pablo Pérez, who may run as an opposition candidate to Chavez in October’s election, during a campaign stop.

Even Chavez sympathizers have reacted strongly.

Tarek El-Aissami, the Venezuelan Minister of Interior and Justice who is one of the key figures in Chavez's government, said on Venezuelan television that the photos are “abominable and morally unacceptable.” He has called for an investigation into the veracity of the images and identify those who are responsible.

The Attorney General has appointed two prosecutors to look into the matter.

El Aissami said the government trying to disarm the population and make the country peaceful.

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What the school did "undermines the integrity" of Venezuelan children, prosecutors said.

Democracy Day in Venezuela, which falls on January 23rd, celebrates the fall of dictatorship rule in Venezuela in 1958.

Jennifer Barreto-Leyva is a freelance writer based in Venezuela.

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