News / Americas

From Jail, Venezuela Protest Leader Urges Resistance

Opposition supporters walk past a burning barricade at Altamira square in Caracas, Feb. 20, 2014.
Opposition supporters walk past a burning barricade at Altamira square in Caracas, Feb. 20, 2014.
Reuters
— Venezuela's jailed protest leader urged supporters on Friday to keep demonstrating peacefully against President Nicolas Maduro despite violence that has killed six people and rocked the OPEC member nation.
 
“I'm fine, I ask you not to give up, I won't,” Leopoldo Lopez said to his followers in a handwritten note passed to his wife at Caracas' Ramo Verde prison then posted on the Internet.
 
The 42-year-old Lopez, a Harvard-educated economist and one of Venezuelan independence hero Simon Bolivar's few surviving relatives, spearheaded protests against the socialist government that began at the start of February.
 
But he surrendered to the military this week after an arrest warrant was issued accusing him of instigating the violence.
 
Six people have died, five from gunshots, and one run over by a vehicle, as the protests have degenerated into violence in Caracas and other cities around Venezuela, especially in the western Andean region.
 
More than 100 people have been injured.
 
Both sides are blaming each other for murder and brutality.
 
The government says sharpshooters are appearing on the opposition side and radicals are seeking to create chaos by smashing property, attacking police and blocking highways.
 
The protesters, mainly students, accuse Maduro of worsening repression. They say police are firing shots, allowing pro-government gangs to attack the protesters and mistreating some detainees.
 
“To the police, soldiers, prosecutors and judges: do not obey unjust orders, do not become the face of repression,” Lopez said in his note from prison.
 
“To the youth, to the protesters, I ask you to stay firm against violence, and to stay organized and disciplined. This is everyone's struggle.”
 
Once again, the worst trouble on Friday appeared to be in the western border town of San Cristobal, which residents are calling a “war zone” with running battles between students and security forces on barricaded streets for days.

Military operation

Venezuela's military has moved into the town in force, residents say, with helicopters and planes flying overhead. Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres is personally leading the operation there.
 
There was also trouble in Merida, another Andean town, and protesters blocked a few streets again in Caracas on Friday.
 
In the biggest challenge to Maduro's 10-month-old government, the protesters are demanding his resignation over Venezuela's rampant crime, inflation, shortages of basic products and alleged repression of opponents.
 
Demonstrators bang pots and pans from windows every night.
 
“I recommend they buy some stainless steel pots to last for a good 10, 20, 30 or 40 years,” Maduro mocked them late on Thursday. “Because the revolution is here for a long time!”
 
Maduro says the protests are a pretext for a planned coup, similar to the short-lived ouster of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, in 2002.
 
There is no evidence the military, which was the decisive factor in 2002, may turn on Maduro now.
 
Henrique Capriles, another opposition leader, dismissed the claim that the protesters were planning to overthrow the government through force. “Civilians don't carry out coups, it's the military who do coups.”
 
Maduro, a 51-year-old former bus driver and union activist, won the presidential election last April. About nine people, most of them government supporters, were killed then in post-election violence when the opposition disputed the result.
 
  • An opposition supporter walks past words painted on a blocked street, reading 'Maduro murderer', at Altamira Square in Caracas, Feb. 21, 2014.
  • Objects placed by opposition protesters block a road in the Altamira neighborhood of Caracas, Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Opposition supporters walk past a burning barricade at Altamira square in Caracas, Feb. 20, 2014.
  • People inside their shack home wave to members of a pro-government "colectivo," or "collective," marching through downtown Caracas, Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Members of a pro-government "colectivo," or "collective," march in downtown Caracas, Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Supporters of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez hold flowers and shout during a rally to promote peace in Caracas, Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Supporters of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez stand at a barricade during a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government in a middle-class neighborhood in Caracas, Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Opposition supporters stand over a monument of a tank which they dragged into the middle of the street during a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Feb. 19, 2014.
The nation of 29 million people is split down the middle between “Chavistas”, as Maduro's supporters are still known after their idol who died of cancer last year, and opponents.
 
Given Venezuela's leadership of a Latin American leftist alliance from Cuba to Bolivia, and the fact it has the world's largest oil reserves, the international ramifications are big.
 
The unrest “threatens to further erode stability and human rights in an already polarized nation facing acute economic crisis and where the homicide rate is one of the highest on earth,” the International Crisis Group think-tank said in the latest expression of concern over Venezuela from abroad.
 
Local TV channels are providing almost no live coverage of the unrest, so Venezuelans are turning to social media to swap information and images. Falsified photos are also circulating.
 
While the Caracas protests began in middle-class neighborhoods and are still strongest there, sporadic demonstrations have also spread to poorer areas.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Honduran President Links Border Crisis to US Policy Divide

Human, drug traffickers 'perversely' exploit confusion about US immigration policy, Juan Orlando Hernandez tells reporters on Capitol Hill
More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US
More

House Republicans Present Border Plan for Child Migrant Crisis

Proposal, they say, offers alternative to emergency funding requested by President Obama to deal with massive influx of illegals
More

US Ambassador Calls for LGBT Rights

John Berry spoke at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne
More

China's Xi Praises Close Ties with Cuba

Head of China's Communist Party hails common socialist bond between his country and Cuba as he kicks off a state visit in Havana
More

US Judge Orders Argentina, Creditors to Reach Deal

Lawyers for investors who declined to restructure bonds after country defaulted on about $100B in 2002 warned that time running out to reach a deal, avert fresh default
More