News / Americas

    Recriminations Over Post-vote Violence Stoke Venezuela Tensions

    FILE - Supporters of opposition leader Henrique Capriles face off against riot police as they demonstrated for a recount of the votes in Sunday's election, in Caracas, April 15, 2013.
    FILE - Supporters of opposition leader Henrique Capriles face off against riot police as they demonstrated for a recount of the votes in Sunday's election, in Caracas, April 15, 2013.
    Reuters
    Residents of La Limonera neighborhood in Venezuela's capital Caracas are still on edge and in mourning after a wave of post-election violence that killed two people in their community.
     
    Neighbors of the low-income settlement say opposition protesters threw Molotov cocktails and fired shots amid nationwide demonstrations after President Nicolas Maduro won a narrow victory against challenger Henrique Capriles.
     
    Nine people died around Venezuela, authorities say.
     
    The opposition questions the government's version of the events, dismissing accusations that various state-run clinics were burned down across Venezuela and suggesting some of the deaths were from the country's notoriously high murder rate.
     
    Establishing the truth is not just a matter of historic record, but a crucial factor going forward in Venezuela's explosive transition to the post-Hugo Chavez era.
     
    Government investigations into the post-vote unrest could lead to criminal charges against Henrique Capriles, the opposition leader who won 49 percent of the votes and is refusing to accept Maduro's win.
     
    While Capriles insists Maduro “stole'' the presidential vote, the president counters that the trouble afterwards demonstrated that he was planning a coup d'etat. South American neighbors have urged dialog, but so far there is no sign of that.
     
    The violence has not been just on the street: A brawl in parliament last week between pro- and anti-government fractions left 11 legislators from both sides injured. Two opposition parliamentarians were particularly badly hurt, one with a bloodied and bruised face, another with a fractured nose.
     
    Each side has its own version of the events after the April 14 vote - a pattern typical of the polarization of the South American OPEC nation under Chavez's 14-year socialist rule.
     
    Discord and Death
     
    In La Limonera, a “socialist city'' Chavez created last year to house some 430 poor families in new tower-blocks, there is outrage at the violence and fear of more. Residents on motorcycles and soldiers now patrol the area, surrounded by middle-class homes.
     
    “You may not agree with me, but you have no right to shoot me, set off rockets, or bang pots and pans every night while my kids are trying to sleep,'' said Oscar Canizales, 21, a resident who patrols on motorcycle.
     
    When official results showed him narrowly losing, Capriles on the night of Sunday, April 14 called on supporters to demand a full recount by marching in the streets.
     
    A day later, opposition protesters near La Limonera went to a state-run clinic staffed by doctors from Cuba who were hired through a Chavez-era oil-for-services deal.
     
    Witnesses interviewed by Reuters said about 100 protesters surrounded the clinic for around two hours shouting slogans such as “Get out Cubans, we don't want you here,'' banging pots and pans in a rowdy “cacerolazo'' protest.
     
    Maduro sympathizers including hairdresser Rosiris Reyes and carpenter Jose Luis Ponce arrived to protect the clinic from harm, witnesses and relatives said. As the protest died down they began returning home, but never made it.
     
    “From a Toyota, someone starting shooting and shouting opposition slogans. One of the bullets hit my mother in the back,'' said 15-year-old Yonylexis Reyes, who lives with two brothers in a small apartment decorated with the posters with the faces of Maduro and Chavez.
     
    “She fell off the motorcycle and we took her to the hospital.'' Her mother died two days later.
     
    Ponce was also shot while returning from the clinic, according to witnesses. A family member said one person was later wounded at his funeral by a shot fired from a neighborhood near La Limonera.
     
    Information Minister Ernesto Villegas several days later said Johny Pacheco, whom he identified as another “defender of the clinic,'' was shot in the head “without being robbed.''
     
    Local media quoted Pacheco's family saying he was in fact killed during an attempt to steal his car, a version also given by residents.
     
    Investigation
     
    At the entrance to the community, the words “Capriles murderer'' are written in red paint. A special legislative commission is investigating allegations he spurred the violence, and one minister has vowed to put him behind bars.
     
    The opposition says the violence has been exaggerated in state media to distract from irregularities on the day of the vote. Capriles is challenging it in the country's highest court.
     
    In La Limonera, witnesses confirmed that the clinic where the opposition protests took place had not in fact been set on fire, as asserted by government leaders.
     
    Reuters visits to that and another of the Caracas-based clinics known as CDIs indicated that they had suffered no evident damage and that they were functioning normally.
     
    “If they had attacked us we would not be open, because we would be too scared,'' said the director of one the centers who asked not to be identified.
     
    Venezuelan human rights group Provea later released a report saying it had found no evidence that any of the CDIs had been attacked - drawing furious criticism from government leaders including Villegas.
     
    Two provincial headquarters of the ruling Socialist Party were set on fire, state media said, but nobody has been detained in connection with those incidents.
     
    Security forces have detained close to 250 demonstrators around the country. The opposition has accused soldiers of beating some of them until they chanted pro-government slogans.
     
    Opposition activist Delsa Solorzano said their only crime had been to bang pots and pans in protest.

    “We didn't know that having a pan and a metal spoon was terrorism,'' said Solorzano.
     
    The instability has unsettled markets, with Venezuelan debt prices falling since the post-election violence.
     
    “It is hard to ignore the recent headlines of growing political tension and open outbreaks of violence between the opposition and Chavista politicians. The realization is that the political risk is much higher in the post-Chavez era,'' said Jefferies' Latin American expert Siobhan Morden.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

    More Americas News

    Colombia's ELN Rebels Declare 72-hour Lockdown

    Move, set to begin on Sunday, will restrict transport and commerce amid signs of further delays in their efforts to begin peace talks

    Venezuelan Supreme Court Approves Emergency Powers for President

    President Maduro had asked the court for emergency powers to counteract the country's deep economic crisis

    Photogallery Pope Francis Meets with Head of Russian Orthodox Church

    Pope Francis, head of Russian Orthodox Church held their first-ever meeting Friday as part of effort to heal 1,000-year-old rift within Western and Eastern branches of Christianity

    Expert: Focus on Zika's Consequences, Not Disease Itself

    Dr. Ronald Waldman of George Washington University notes that the possible link to microcephaly, not the relatively mild disease itself, is of greatest concern

    Dozens Killed in Mexico Prison Riot

    Inmates set fire to a storage area during overnight fighting between rival factions at Topo Chico prison

    Brazil Partners With US Scientists to Find Zika Vaccine

    Brazilia to invest $1.9 million in partnership between University of Texas and Evandro Chagas Institute; aim is to develop serum within year