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.
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.


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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

IOC Leaders to Discuss Mexico Dispute Next Month

The International Olympic Committee said Friday the issue of government interference in Mexico will be reviewed by its policy-making executive board at its Dec. 8-10 meeting in Lausanne

Hurricane Sandra Loses Strength Off Mexican Coast

Now a Category 3 storm in the Pacific with winds of 195 kph, it's expected to weaken to a tropical storm Friday night

Ecuador to Impose Visa Requirements on Cuban Citizens

Objective is 'to discourage the flow of people seeking to reach the United States,' Ecuador's deputy foreign minister says

Destruction of Brazil's Amazon Forest Jumps 16 Percent in 2015

More than 5,800 square kilometers of forests were cleared during the 12 months ending in July, the government confirms — an area half the size of Puerto Rico

Local Opposition Leader Shot Dead in Venezuela

Armed assailants in vehicle shoot Luis Diaz, head of Democratic Action party, in Altagracia de Orituco in central Venezuela

Brazil Corruption Probe Widens; Bank CEO, Senate Leader Arrested

Detentions on orders from Supreme Court raise stakes in bribery scandal that now threatens heights of Brazilian banking and politics