News / Americas

From Music to Nudity, Venezuela Protesters Get Creative

Anti-government protesters kiss during protest against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government, Caracas, March 22, 2014.
Anti-government protesters kiss during protest against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government, Caracas, March 22, 2014.
Reuters
Venezuelan students are putting mock gravestones in the streets, setting up “resistance” camps and even stripping off in a plethora of new tactics to counter dwindling support for a three-month protest movement against President Nicolas Maduro.

“Lately, the protests haven't been working so well. People are starting to get tired and bored,” said Eliana Mora, a 25-year-old student at the Catholic Andres Bello University.

She has joined scores of others posting nude photos online in solidarity with one protester who was beaten and paraded naked during violent clashes on a university campus.

“This is a different way to motivate them and make them do something else,” added Mora, who posted her photo with the words “Better naked than without freedom of expression.”

The new tactics aim to give the protest movement broader appeal and contrast with the images of violence, petrol bombs and tear gas that had come to define the unrest.

Anti-government demonstrations began in February at universities in the country's western state of Tachira and snowballed after opposition politicians jumped on the bandwagon.

At least 41 people have since been killed in the violence, with victims on both sides.

Complaining about inflation, crime and police abuse, the student protesters are clamoring for change in Venezuela, with some calling for the socialist Maduro to resign just over a year since he won power after the death of Hugo Chavez.

However, with disparate leadership, their methods and objectives have become muddied and their numbers have fallen.

A hard core remains on the streets, burning tires and manning roadblocks, but many have opted to stay home.

Maduro appears safe in his presidency.

Creativity

Trying to reverse the waning intensity of their protests, some activists are shunning traditional street confrontation for more emotive tactics. They have been going out before dawn to plant mock crosses, coffins and gravestones on prominent avenues to symbolize Venezuela's homicide victims.

Others perform songs and drama in the street.

“I love my country but Venezuelans would rather go to the beach ... they just don't care,” complained Andrea Lacoste, 24,  who wrote a protest ballad “Song without color” whose opening lyrics lament Venezuelans' “disinterest and insensibility.”

At a conventional opposition march on Saturday in Caracas, just two people turned up on time at the starting point. Numbers swelled later to a couple of thousand — small by Venezuelan standards — and few political leaders were present.

“You won't see a lot of people today,” said David Rodriguez, 20, studying mechanical engineering at the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. “The student movement is divided and several universities didn't support the rally.”

Fractures within the opposition student movement mirror those of their political elders who for 15 years have failed to unseat the socialist government amid infighting.

The unrest of the last three months has revived those old divisions, fracturing the upper echelons of the opposition leadership between hardliners who egg on the protesters and moderates worried that radical street tactics play into government hands.

Among numerous student leaders, Juan Requesens and Carlos Vargas, both in their early 20s, have emerged as big players.

Both organize rallies, marches and assemblies in university lecture theaters nearly every day, often simultaneously.

Requesens is politically aligned with Henrique Capriles, the moderate opposition leader who lost the two presidential elections, first against Chavez and then against Maduro.

Vargas is more radical and claims no political affiliation, though is closer in policy to hardline politicians such as Leopoldo Lopez, who is behind bars accused of inciting unrest.

Opposing camps

In one colorful illustration of fragmentation among students, two opposing “resistance” camps have sprung up about a kilometer away from each other in eastern Caracas.

Outside a U.N. office, more than 100 tents block a main road, equipped with food and medical facilities as well as security guards. “We want a U.N. commission to come and see the human rights abuses here,” said Francia Cacique, 24, stood at the entrance to her own tent.

Down the road, protesters at a smaller camp oppose outside intervention.

“This is a Venezuelan problem that must be solved by Venezuelans,” said Geraldine Falcon, 25, who manages the camp.

There are also a significant number of students who are not opposed to Maduro. There are many pro-government groups in Venezuela's universities and they are similarly disparate. Some fight with rivals while others hold civilized debate.

Jose Luis Borjas, 24, who runs one of two pro-government groups at the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, said the protests were not part of a spontaneous, organic movement.

“There are political interests behind all this,” he said.

Though Maduro appears safely in control, the core group of protesters is showing no signs of going away.

Yon Goicoechea, who led large student protests in Caracas in 2007 but lives in Spain now, said the current movement does have some advantages, particularly its online dexterity and the fact Maduro is a weaker target than the charismatic Chavez was.

“Seven years ago there wasn't so much social media available. That's the main difference,” he said. “The other difference is that Hugo Chavez is dead.”

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

3 Mexican Journalists Assassinated in Week

Rights groups call on Mexican authorities to thoroughly investigate recent murders in Oaxaca, Veracruz and Guanajuato
More

Ecuador Is Prime Example at Heart of Pope's Climate Stance

Pope Francis begins his South America tour this weekend in country that is prime example of tensions between politics, business and environment
More

Experts: US-Cuba Moves Likely to Deepen N Korea’s Isolation

Korea University professor sees US-Cuba normalization as 'quite an ideological eye-opener' for Pyongyang, a longtime Havana ally
More

Pope to Tour 3 South American Countries

Grueling, week-long trip will showcase Francis at his unpredictable best: speaking his native Spanish on his home turf about issues closest to his heart
More

Congress Aims to Keep Bans on Dealing with Cuban Military

Proposed legislation would ban Americans from engaging in any financial transactions with the Cuban military or the Cuban Ministry of the Interior
More

Video Rapprochement Opens New, Uncertain Chapter in US-Cuba Relations

Change is result of months of secret negotiations that culminated in December with decision to resume ties, but critics say nothing has changed in Cuba’s human rights record
More