News / Americas

Holiday May Take Heat Out of Venezuela Crisis

Man arranges board with spraypainted message that reads
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

Sambisa Forest Stands Between Nigeria, Victory Over Boko Haram

Military takes back nearly all towns, villages in northeast, except for massive expanse of forest that spreads thousands of square kilometers over several states More

Islamic State Recruiting Stokes Fears for Parents in Georgia

Chechens are a notable part of Islamic State's gains in Syria and Iraq, and analysts fear what might happen if those fighters return to the Caucasus More

Yarmouk Camp Becomes Distant Memory for Palestinian Diaspora

Once thriving capital of Palestinian diaspora, after siege by Syrian government forces and Islamic State group, camp becomes 'deepest circle of hell' 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.
Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'i
X
Sharon Behn
April 21, 2015 9:18 PM
A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten. Sharon Behn reports on the politics of the word genocide on the 100th anniversary of the events.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video German Program Helps Migrants Overcome Traumatic Experience at Sea

Migrants fleeing poverty and violence in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia risk life and limb to reach safety in Europe. Those who have made it to European shores are traumatized by the experience. A program in Germany helps survivors overcome the trauma by giving a new perspective to their catastrophic experience. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

US Cancer Center, Software Firm Strike Deals in Cuba

Agreements made during two-day trade mission to Cuba led by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
More

Santos: Colombia Will Not Cave to Political Pressure to End Peace Talks

Demands that president abandon 2-year-old negotiations with FARC mount after rebels broke a unilateral ceasefire last week, killing 11 soldiers in an ambush
More

Venezuelans Press Need for Higher Oil Prices on Mideast Visit

Venezuelans' need for oil supply cuts has yet to shift stance of Gulf OPEC allies, which are focusing on protecting market share
More

Official: Honduras Foiled 2014 Cartel Plot to Kill President

Security ministry spokesman says plot hatched by Colombian, Mexican, Honduran and Guatemalan gangsters last September
More

Kerry Says US Open to Improved Ties With Venezuela

At Washington conference, he also calls US efforts to re-establish ties with Havana the best way to help Cubans achieve greater freedom
More

Chileans Continue Protest Against Bishop With Links to Abuser

Juan Barros, recently appointed to southern Chile diocese, is accused of having shielded country's most notorious pedophile priest
More