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.
Reuters
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

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.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
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

Right to Die: Colombian Man Ends Life with Government Backup

After heated public debate and last-minute legal challenges, 79-year-old becomes first Colombian to die as result of government-sanctioned euthanasia
More

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