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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
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.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

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

Trial Imminent for Detained Venezuelan Protest Leader Lopez

Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, says outside pressure needed on Venezuelan president to move case forward
More

Sex Workers Seek HIV Prevention

The Lancet publishes new series on HIV
More

Texas Gov. Perry Orders State National Guard to Border

Governor says he took extraordinary measure to help secure the border, his critics say it is a political stunt
More