News / Americas

Amid Protests, Venezuela to Remember Late Hugo Chavez

A man walks in front of a mural of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela, March 4, 2014.
A man walks in front of a mural of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela, March 4, 2014.
Reuters
Venezuela geared up on Tuesday for commemorations of socialist leader Hugo Chavez's death despite continued protests against his successor that have shaken the OPEC member and threatened the legacy of “El Comandante.”
 
Even as students maintained barricades in some cities and activists held new rallies, President Nicolas Maduro's government was making lavish plans to honor Chavez on Wednesday's anniversary of his death from cancer.
 
Maduro, who announced Chavez's death in tears to a shell-shocked nation on March 5 last year, has made preserving Chavez's controversial legacy the guiding force of his presidency despite opposition from about half of Venezuelans.
 
The president is to preside over a military parade in Caracas on Wednesday, followed by a ceremony at the mausoleum housing Chavez's remains on a hilltop shantytown.
 
Latin American allies, including Bolivian leader Evo Morales and Nicaraguan counterpart Daniel Ortega, are expected to attend.
 
Maduro, 51, narrowly won election in April 2013 to replace his late mentor but has seen economic problems worsen, made little headway against violent crime, and faced street protests since early February in the nation of 29 million people.
 
Those demonstrations have brought Venezuela's worst unrest in a decade, with 18 people killed as demonstrators have faced off with security forces and Maduro supporters.
 
Yet there seems to be little chance of a Ukraine-style change at the top, given numbers on the street are not massive, the military appears to remain behind Maduro, and opposition leaders are not winning over 'Chavistas' in poor areas.
 
The current crisis has, though, exposed genuine discontent among Venezuelans on all sides, with the highest inflation in the Americas, shortages of products from toilet paper to milk, and violent crime rates among the worst in the world.
 
“Better Off With Chavez”
 
“We were better off with Chavez. Maduro has to work harder because if not, the people who elected him will be the people who end up getting rid of him,” Evelyn Vegas, 53, a housewife, said in a state-run supermarket.
 
That comment echoed a common sentiment among 'Chavistas', who remain loyal to Maduro since that was Chavez's dying wish, but are far from thrilled with his government.
 
Critics say it is irrelevant to be remembering Chavez and spending money on a military parade when Venezuela has so many pressing problems to resolve.
 
Students continued to block some streets in Caracas and other cities, most notably San Cristobal in western Tachira state, on Tuesday in what has become their modus operandi for permanent demonstration, despite annoying many residents.
 
An anti-government protester throws a gas canister at the police during clashes at Altamira Square in Caracas, Venezuela, March 3, 2014.An anti-government protester throws a gas canister at the police during clashes at Altamira Square in Caracas, Venezuela, March 3, 2014.
x
An anti-government protester throws a gas canister at the police during clashes at Altamira Square in Caracas, Venezuela, March 3, 2014.
An anti-government protester throws a gas canister at the police during clashes at Altamira Square in Caracas, Venezuela, March 3, 2014.
In what has become a pre-dusk ritual in Caracas, several hundred militant protesters battled with police near Plaza Altamira in an affluent eastern district.
 
Hardened by several weeks of such clashes, the students carried better-quality gas masks, flung stones, prepared gasoline bombs and strung wires across the main avenue to block police motorbikes. Officers replied with teargas.
 
“They're celebrating the anniversary of a tyrant. We have to resist!” said Aquiles Aldazo, 18, spraying the word “Resistance” on a wall.
 
Earlier, thousands had rallied peacefully in two demonstrations.
 
“Heir to Chavez”
 
Protesters wore white and waved Venezuelan flags, chanting, “We don't want a dicatorship like Cuba!” or “We are all Leopoldo!” in reference to jailed protest leader Leopoldo Lopez.
 
Many Venezuelans were on the road on Tuesday, returning from beaches after a long weekend for Carnival that took some of the heat out of the protests and clashes of recent weeks.
 
Demonstrators raise their arms in unison during a demonstration honoring the victims who died in last month's anti-government protests, in Caracas, Venezuela, March 4, 2014.Demonstrators raise their arms in unison during a demonstration honoring the victims who died in last month's anti-government protests, in Caracas, Venezuela, March 4, 2014.
x
Demonstrators raise their arms in unison during a demonstration honoring the victims who died in last month's anti-government protests, in Caracas, Venezuela, March 4, 2014.
Demonstrators raise their arms in unison during a demonstration honoring the victims who died in last month's anti-government protests, in Caracas, Venezuela, March 4, 2014.
Venezuela's troubles have caught international attention, with calls for dialogue from the Vatican to the White House. Various celebrities have weighed in too, mostly to criticize Maduro, with a mention even occurring at the Oscars.
 
Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, who met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva on Monday, said Venezuela was the victim of an international campaign to ignore social gains under Chavez and Maduro and paint the government as a dictatorship.
 
“It's a well-designed campaign,” he told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday, saying barely 1 percent of Venezuela had been affected by protests.
 
“They're using, as spokespeople, world-famous artists who barely know where Venezuela is, let alone the reality of our country, and our democratic political process.”
 
Children dressed as late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez salute during the Carnival festival in Caracas, March 4, 2014.Children dressed as late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez salute during the Carnival festival in Caracas, March 4, 2014.
x
Children dressed as late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez salute during the Carnival festival in Caracas, March 4, 2014.
Children dressed as late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez salute during the Carnival festival in Caracas, March 4, 2014.
Chavez enjoyed high popularity throughout his 14-year rule, winning a dozen national elections thanks to his charisma, humble roots that appealed to the poor, and liberal use of the OPEC nation's oil revenues to finance slum welfare programs.
 
“The recent problems have not gone on long enough for most people to give up on a government that has raised their living standards more than any other government in decades,” wrote Mark Weisbrot, a U.S. analyst generally favorable to the government.
 
Though they recognize some social gains, opponents say Chavez's legacy is a shameful one.
 
He bullied opponents - some of whom were jailed or went into exile - and ruined Venezuela's economy by squandering an oil revenue boom, crushing the private sector, and sticking stubbornly to failed statist policies, they say.
 
“Maduro tries to sell himself as the heir to Chavez, but he is just a bad copy,” opposition leader Henrique Capriles said in an interview. “What we see now are the desperate kicks of the drowning man, who's trying to appeal constantly to sentiment over Chavez to justify the failure of his own government.”

You May Like

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Mexico Captures Wanted Drug Kingpin Hector Beltran Leyva

Beltran Leyva is one of four brothers who allegedly headed a vicious Mexican drug cartel after it split with the Sinaloa cartel
More

Mother Says Former US Marine Needs Treatment, Not Mexican Prison

Jill Tahmooressi said son Andrew, 26, has been threatened by prison guards with rape, torture and execution since his arrest in March
More

Rio 2016 Olympics Progress Impressive, Says IOC in Change of Tone

Assessment, in stark contrast to ‘worst’ ever remark made by one committee member, comes after latest site inspection
More

Mexican Soldiers Face Murder Charges in 22 Deaths

Three soldiers charged with homicide in death of 22 suspected drug gang members who prosecutors allege were executed
More

Poll: Record Number of Mexicans Crime Victims in 2013

While government data shows murder rate has fallen in past 2 years, crimes such as kidnapping and extortion, which affect wider swath of the population, rise
More

OAS Asks Members to Take In Guantanamo Detainees

Organization of American States issues appeal for member countries to take in detainees from US military prison
More