News / Americas

Holiday May Take Heat Out of Venezuela Crisis

Man arranges board with spraypainted message that reads "Carnivals 2014," at a barricade set up by anti-government protesters, Valencia, Venezuela, Feb. 27, 2014.
Man arranges board with spraypainted message that reads "Carnivals 2014," at a barricade set up by anti-government protesters, Valencia, Venezuela, Feb. 27, 2014.
Reuters
Venezuelans began a week-long national holiday on Thursday as some protests still simmer, but President Nicolas Maduro's government is hoping the break will take the heat out of the nation's worst unrest in a decade.
 
The 51-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez brought forward by two days a long weekend national holiday for Carnival when Venezuelans traditionally abandon cities and head for Caribbean coast beaches to relax and party.
 
There will be another day off for the March 5 anniversary of Chavez's death from cancer, meaning a week-long break that officials hope will dampen student-led street protests against the government.
 
In the capital, Caracas, which has seen most of the at least 13 fatalities from this month's unrest, opposition supporters gathered in wealthy eastern neighborhoods.
 
In familiar scenes from the last two weeks, when one group of demonstrators tried to block a six-lane highway that runs nearby, security forces fired teargas to disperse them.
 
“How can you enjoy carnival when people are dying?” read one banner waved by students at drivers in eastern Caracas as many people began to hit the highways for the coast.
 
In the city center, red-clad Maduro supporters rallied in remembrance of deadly price riots 25 years ago, which the president says helped propel Chavez to power a decade later.
 
The students want Maduro to quit over grievances ranging from high inflation and shocking crime rates to shortages of basic food and alleged repression of political rivals.
 
Though they have presented the biggest challenge to his 10-month-old administration and the worst unrest since street rallies against Chavez a decade ago, there is no sign Maduro could be ousted.
 
On the contrary, he seems to be regaining the initiative by offering dialog with foes and consolidating his leadership of the Socialist Party by uniting factions against a common enemy.
 
Injuries, arrests
 
About 150 people have been injured during the two-week crisis, and more than 500 people arrested, authorities say.
 
Of those, 55 remain behind bars. They are mostly protesters but also include seven intelligence agents and security officials accused of being involved in the shooting of two people in downtown Caracas after a Feb. 12 rally that sparked the worst trouble.
 
The government recognizes security forces were involved in three of the 13 fatalities. It says about 50 people have died in total due to the protests, including indirectly linked cases such as people unable to reach hospital due to blocked roads.
 
Venezuela's volatile western region, in the Andean foothills on the Colombian border, has seen the worst unrest, with students and security forces facing off day after day.

Story continues below photogallery:
  • Anti-government demonstrators wearing masks hold a makeshift shield during clashes with police at Altamira square in Caracas, Feb. 27, 2014.
  • Anti-government demonstrators shout during a protest at a barricade in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Feb. 27, 2014.
  • An anti-government demonstrator walks behind a burning motorcycle during a protest in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Feb. 27, 2014.
  • National Guard troops fire against demonstrators during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in San Cristobal, Feb. 27, 2014.
  • Nuns raise their arms during a women's march protesting repression against anti-government demonstrators in Caracas, Feb. 26, 2014.
  • Demonstrators fill a bottle with gasoline during protests against Nicolas Maduro's government in San Cristobal, about 660 km southwest of Caracas, Feb. 26, 2014. 
  • A motorcycle taxi driver walks past burning motorcycles set ablaze by anti-government demonstrators at Altamira Square in Caracas, Feb. 26, 2014. 
  • Men on motorcycles look at firefighters extinguishing motorcycles set ablaze by anti-government demonstrators at Altamira Square in Caracas, Feb. 26, 2014. 

In one middle-class neighborhood of San Cristobal city, demonstrators manning a barricade on Thursday in an upper-middle-class neighborhood said National Guard troops had fired teargas at them but failed to dislodge their protest.
 
A Reuters reporter saw them reinforcing the barrier, winding wire around tree branches to strengthen the structure of chain-link fencing and corrugated metal sheets.
 
“How long are we going to let them abuse us?” said one man, his shirt tied around his face.
 
He accused protesters in Caracas of lacking the strength of their counterparts in San Cristobal and elsewhere.

“The Caraquenos are only interested in parties, and not in getting rid of this joke of a government,” he complained.
 
'Spoiling Carnival'
 
Maduro accused foes of trying to wreck Venezuelans' cherished Carnival celebrations and mocked opposition leaders as part of a wealthy elite flying out for the break.
 
“There's not a single flight out left. They're all going abroad while they try and deprive the farm worker, the laborer, the student, of their Carnival,” Maduro thundered in a speech to supporters late on Wednesday. “I'm not going to allow it. Carnival 2014 is going ahead!”
 
In an attempt to calm tensions, Maduro hosted business and church leaders, and some opposition politicians, at a “peace conference” in his presidential palace on Wednesday night.
 
Shown live on state TV, the occasion gave Venezuelans the unusual sight of businessmen, whom Maduro frequently excoriates as “savage capitalists” and ringleaders of an “economic war” against him, debating with the president.
 
The attendees were each allowed five minutes to speak, with the head of Venezuela's main business chamber Jorge Roig criticizing Maduro's “failed” economic model.
 
Major opposition figures did not attend, however.
 
The main opposition leader Henrique Capriles said he did not want to take part in a “photo op” without signs Maduro was serious about making concessions or addressing real problems.
 
Firebrand protest leader Leopoldo Lopez, who leads a radical wing of the opposition, is in jail on charges of fomenting this month's unrest. And the umbrella Democratic Unity opposition organization's executives declined to attend what they called a “pretend dialogue.”
 
With calls for both sides to talk pouring in from the Vatican to the White House, the opposition's strategy could backfire in terms of wider international opinion.
 
Maduro has received strong support from leftist allies such as Bolivia and Cuba, and only some relatively muted criticism from other nations including Chile and Colombia.
 
Regional heavyweight Brazil, whom Latin American governments increasingly look to for a lead, has kept quiet, saying Venezuela's problems are for it alone to resolve.
 
“The Maduro government is on a PR mission and initial indications are that it is winning,” the London-based Latinnews newsletter said in an analysis on the crisis.
 
“The 'Exit' movement seeking Maduro's resignation has lost momentum and, at the end of the day, it didn't appear to offer ordinary citizens anything politically tangible, other than a vent for their extreme frustration with the social and economic crisis,” it said. “There doesn't appear to be a 'Plan B'.”

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: DCMontreal from: Montreal
February 28, 2014 7:37 AM
Maduro's attempt to entice the protesters away from the barricades and onto the beaches for Carnivals by adding two extra holidays and thus showing the world they are not serious in their struggle seems to have failed!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

New Brazil Poll Shows Silva Beating Rousseff in Runoff

Outcome seemed unimaginable just a few weeks ago; would put an end to 12 years of Workers' Party rule
More

Argentina Desires Deal Grouping All Holdout Investors Together

A deal is now not seen likely before next year's October presidential election, in which Fernandez cannot run
More

Hurricane Cristobal Kills Four, Moves Toward Bermuda

Storm is not expected to threaten US, but could cause deadly surf and rip currents from Florida to North Carolina
More

Peru's Congress Narrowly OKs Humala's New Cabinet on 3rd Vote

Lawmakers ratify president's embattled cabinet after ruling party offers to suspend rule requiring independent workers to pay into a pension program
More

Brazil's Deadly Prison Riot Ends

Officials say two inmates were beheaded during the Cascavel riot; two others were thrown to their deaths from the roof, and police are investigating how a fifth inmate died
More

Amid Slowdown, Chileans Adjust to New Economic Reality

Most economists now predict overall growth in country's economy of between 2.0 and 2.5 percent this year, down from 4.1 percent in 2013
More