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 Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

New Brazil Poll Shows Silva Beating Rousseff in Runoff

Outcome seemed unimaginable just a few weeks ago; would put an end to 12 years of Workers' Party rule
More

Argentina Desires Deal Grouping All Holdout Investors Together

A deal is now not seen likely before next year's October presidential election, in which Fernandez cannot run
More

Hurricane Cristobal Kills Four, Moves Toward Bermuda

Storm is not expected to threaten US, but could cause deadly surf and rip currents from Florida to North Carolina
More

Peru's Congress Narrowly OKs Humala's New Cabinet on 3rd Vote

Lawmakers ratify president's embattled cabinet after ruling party offers to suspend rule requiring independent workers to pay into a pension program
More

Brazil's Deadly Prison Riot Ends

Officials say two inmates were beheaded during the Cascavel riot; two others were thrown to their deaths from the roof, and police are investigating how a fifth inmate died
More

Amid Slowdown, Chileans Adjust to New Economic Reality

Most economists now predict overall growth in country's economy of between 2.0 and 2.5 percent this year, down from 4.1 percent in 2013
More