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

N. Korea Sentences American to 6 Years Hard Labor

Matthew Miller's brief trial Sunday comes two weeks after 24-year old Miller and two other American detainees appealed to the US government to help free them More

Pakistan Rejects Afghan Criticism of 480-kilometer Border Trench

Military spokesman tells VOA the project is part of administrative and security measures taken to secure the mountainous border with Afghanistan More

Photogallery Typhoon Kalmaegi Makes Landfall in Philippines

Storm makes landfall late Sunday, cutting power and communications lines and forcing people to flee to higher ground More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interesti
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 12, 2014 8:35 PM
The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video Palestinians Turn to Rebuilding Gaza

After almost two months of conflict in Gaza, Palestinians are preparing to rebuild the isolated Mediterranean enclave with assistance from abroad. Meanwhile, an international human rights group has found that Israel likely violated international laws of war during some of its attacks on Gaza. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Middle Eastern Church Leaders Highlight Christians’ Plight

Patriarchs of Eastern Rite churches came to Washington this week to draw attention to the attacks against Christians in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. VOA’s religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Powerful Hurricane Threatens Mexico's Baja California

US forecasters have downgraded Odile to strong Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour
More

Hard-hitting Films Tackle Homelessness at Toronto Festival

'Time Out of Mind,' 'Shelter,' and 'Heaven Knows What' all focus on characters struggling with homelessness, addiction on the streets of New York
More

After Tax Reform Triumph, Chile's President Faces Rockier Road

'Honeymoon' may be over for Michelle Bachelet as protests rise and economy, security outlook worsen
More

Mexico: Texas Governor's Border Deployment Politically Motivated

Rick Perry says he is sending up to 1,000 troops to Mexican border to deter criminal activity caused by drug cartels
More

Video Authorities Allege Ties Between LA Fashion Industry, Cartels

Officials say the LA fashion industry has attracted drug money since the Mexican government tightened restrictions on cash transfers
More

Brazil Confirms Amazon Deforestation Sped Up in 2013

Destruction of world's largest rainforest accelerated last year with a 29 percent spike, figures confirm a reversal in gains seen since 2009
More