News / Americas

Jailed Opposition Leader Calls for More Venezuela Protests

Anti-government protesters shout during a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, March 3, 2014.
Anti-government protesters shout during a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, March 3, 2014.
Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez urged sympathizers on Monday to maintain street protests against President Nicolas Maduro as the country's foreign minister prepared to meet the United Nations secretary-general.

Lopez, who was arrested on Feb. 18 after helping launch a nationwide protest movement, demanded top officials including the interior minister resign over the use of force against demonstrators in violence that has killed at least 18 people.

"We must continue the peaceful struggle. There is no reason to give up our fight," said Lopez in a message read in a video posted online from an undisclosed location by a party colleague who is also wanted in connection with the unrest.  "They will never defeat those who refuse to give up."

Opposition leaders called for another march on Monday after bringing thousands onto the streets on Sunday, despite the Carnival holiday that usually draws Venezuelans to the beach.

Several thousand people gathered in the well-heeled Las Mercedes district of Caracas and marched to the local office of the Organization of American States.

Protesters in the wealthier east of the capital have clashed nearly every day with National Guard troops in confused melees that generally kick off in the early evening. The demonstrators set up improvised barricades of debris and burning trash that are usually cleared by the next day.

There are no signs that the unrest, which Maduro excoriates as a U.S.-backed coup effort, could overthrow his government or force him to resign, despite widespread discontent with soaring inflation and rampant crime.

Diplomats and Movie Stars

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, who met on Monday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Geneva, said the protests were not peaceful demonstrations but rather dangerous and vandalistic disruptions of public order.

"Venezuela's people have been subjected to a continuous attack over the last month that seeks to make the state look like a human rights violator," Jaua said in a speech. "They are trying to paint a picture of generalized chaos and indiscriminate repression to justify a foreign intervention in our internal affairs."

The U.N. said in a statement that Ban expressed hope for reduced tensions and the possibility for dialogue.

The continuing protests have helped motivate the opposition, and even prompted solidarity from Hollywood stars including Jared Leto and Kevin Spacey during Sunday's Academy Awards.

Anti-government street activism during 2002 helped briefly topple socialist leader Hugo Chavez, who died a year ago from cancer, but similar efforts afterwards failed miserably.

A two-month national strike launched that same year which included marches almost every day ended up bolstering Chavez and weakening the opposition.

Protests in 2004 that were nearly identical to those of today helped the government paint its rivals as saboteurs willing to do anything to seize power.

The current protests are facing both natural attrition and criticism from within opposition ranks, especially the tactic of improvised street barricades.

Internal Dissent

One recent video filmed in the central city of Valencia shows opposition sympathizers in a well-to-do neighborhood attempting to clear debris from a road, while exchanging insults with residents who insist on restoring the barrier.

"How many diseases are produced by this?" asks one woman standing in an ash-filled street blocked by wooden pallets and concrete rubble. "If we're going to talk about politics, who voted for this? I didn't."

"What could be more of a dictatorship than what they're doing here?" chimes in a second angry neighbor.

Another woman is seen bleeding from a slash in her forearm, apparently after trying to move metal debris from the barricade.

Maduro sought to take the wind out of the demonstrations by extending the four-day Carnival holiday to six days, though politics has permeated many visits to the beach.

Opposition sympathizers filled social networks with pictures of empty beaches, while state television broadcast footage of festive revelry and traditional costume parades.

Mock tombstones and crosses were set up on a beach in the wealthy eastern town of Lecheria. Local media said they were removed by the pro-Maduro state government, then set up again by opposition stalwarts.

On Sunday night security forces clashed with protesters in Caracas' posh Plaza Altamira, a frequent focus of rock-throwing rallies. National Guard troops, seeking to dissuade the demonstrators, blared Venezuelan folk music for several hours through loudspeakers mounted on a truck.

Cybernauts at the same time lobbied movie stars on Twitter to speak out about the situation at the Oscars, intermingling images of teargas clouds rising from the plaza with shots of Hollywood actors in black-tie garb on the red carpet.

The security response to protests has become the primary motivation for demonstrators, overtaking complaints about Venezuela's ailing economy.

Annual inflation reached 56 percent last year and the central bank's index of product scarcity recently hit a record high, even though the price of oil, the country's main export, has remained in a comfortable range of $100 per barrel.

Maduro decries an "economic war" backed by Washington, but his critics say the situation is the result of a failed system of currency controls and nationalizations that have strangled the private sector and left the economy dependent on dozens of bloated state-run enterprises.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: j from: q
March 04, 2014 10:40 PM
A taxi driver charges one customer.
A bus driver feels that the ride is undercharged.
A taxi driver feels that he should do more to satisfy a customer.
A bus driver feels no difference between pultery, cartons, garbage or passengers on board.
A taxi driver feels money-happy with every door open.
A bus driver feels like an unpaid door man.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Guatemala Landslide Death Toll Tops 220; Another 350 Missing

Loosened by heavy rains, hillside collapsed onto Santa Catarina Pinula on southeastern flank of Guatemala City October 1, burying scores of homes

Report: More Than 58,000 Violent Deaths Last Year in Brazil

Annual report on public security says number of violent deaths up nearly 5 percent last year from 2013, when country suffered a then high of 55,000 such deaths

UN Launches Review of Possible Corruption

Audit will look at interaction between world body and two organizations that US prosecutors have accused of bribing a former top UN official

US to Publish Records on Chile 1976 Assassination

Orlando Letelier was killed, along with his American co-worker Ronni Moffitt, by a car bomb in the center of Washington

US Official: Ending Cuba Embargo Will Take Time

Commerce Secretary wraps up visit to communist-ruled island saying both sides need to learn more about each other as they work to improve relations

Missing Cargo Ship’s Recorder Sought for Clues

Officials say El Faro's voyage data recorder, similar to 'black box' on aircraft, would provide a wealth of data on what befell the ship and the 33 people aboard