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 On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Argentina, US Creditors Fail to Reach Deal; Default Imminent

This will mark the second time in 13 years Argentina has defaulted on its debt
More

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Officials grapple with ways to deal with problem, provide shelter for thousands of minors among illegal border crossers
More

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Legal school segregation ended in the US 60 years ago, but research project finds it still occurs based on income and race
More

Cuban Tourism Industry Stalls in 2013; Up 3.9 Percent Through June

Statistics seen as latest indication of general slowdown in country's economy
More

Video US Senate Advances Bill to Address Border Crisis

Legislation would authorize funds to house, process tens of thousands of undocumented Central American minors arriving at southern border, but faces many hurdles
More

Urbanization Can Bring Health Risks

Researchers warn of increase in heart disease, diabetes
More