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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

More Americas News

ExxonMobil Set to Begin Drilling Off Guyana

Project could turn up the heat under a long-running territorial row with neighboring Venezuela
More

Peru Indigenous Groups Settle US Court Claims with Occidental

Achuar communities alleged Occidental spilled oil and dumped toxic waste while operating country's biggest oil block, triggering widespread health problems
More

Petrobras Scandal Threatens Brazil's Political, Business Elite

Executives reportedly feeling inclined to cut plea bargains that would result in less jail time in return for disclosing graft scheme details
More

Tests Indicate Argentine Prosecutor Was Slain, Ex-Wife Says

Alberto Nisman, found dead days after accusing president of involvement in cover-up, didn't commit suicide, Sandra Arroyo Salgado says
More

Canadian Pastor Detained in North Korea

Hyeon Soo Lim arrived in North Korea in late January, went to Pyongyang on a humanitarian mission and hasn't been heard from since
More

Colombia Generals Join Rebel Leaders for Peace Talks

Colombia's President Santos long resisted FARC calls for bilateral ceasefire, but since his re-election last year, he has injected urgency into negotiations
More