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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

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

US Weighs Venezuela’s Order to Cut US Embassy Staff

US State Department dismisses Caracas’ charge of undermining government as ‘baseless’
More

Venezuela Lets Uruguay Pay for Oil With Goods, Services

Struggling economy, currency controls in Venezuela have led to shortages of medicine, toilet paper, flour, shampoo, other basic goods
More

US Proposes Making Radio Marti, Broadcaster to Cuba, Independent

Officials say proposal was unrelated to Cuba outreach and aimed at modernizing the broadcaster
More

Venezuela to Require Visas for US Travelers

Move eliminates United States from list of 65 countries exempt from tourist visa requirements
More

Chilean Volcano Goes Quiet After Overnight Eruption

Volcano, located near popular tourist resort of Pucon around 750 km (460 miles) south of Santiago, is one of South America's most active
More

Obama Hopes for US Embassy in Cuba Before April Summit

But, in interview with Reuters president also cautions it will take more time to fully establish normal relations with Cuba after more than a half-century rupture
More