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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Better Lives Sought for Larimar Miners in Dominican Republic

Blue-green stone's existence on Caribbean island seen as both a boon and a curse for those looking for jobs in impoverished southwestern mountains
More

Antibiotic Resistance Found in Isolated Amazonian Tribe

Yanomami villagers in Venezuela offer rare chance to see what microbes likely shared our bodies before civilizations evolved
More

Brazil's Olympic Host Rio Has Phones Cut Due to Unpaid Bills

Brazilian telecoms firm Oi SA says it cut Internet and telephone lines after state government racked up debt of $55.7 million in unpaid bills
More

Pope Considering Cuba Stop During US Trip but No Decision

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit New York, Philadelphia and Washington in the last week of September
More

India and Canada Look Forward to Deeper Ties

Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Canada in 42 years
More

Colombian Rebels Blame Government for War's Rising Death Toll

But FARC rebels declined to say whether they had broken their own ceasefire with recent attack that killed 11 government soldiers
More