News / Americas

Venezuela Protests Continue as Demonstrators, Troops Face Off

Members of a pro-government "colectivo," or "collective," march in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 20, 2014.
Members of a pro-government "colectivo," or "collective," march in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 20, 2014.
Reuters
Venezuelan security forces and demonstrators faced off in streets blocked by burning barricades in several provincial cities on Thursday as protests escalated against President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government.
 
At least five people have died since the violence broke out last week, the most serious unrest since Maduro was narrowly elected in April 2013. There have been scores of injuries and arrests.
 
The protesters, mostly students, want Maduro to resign, and blame his government for violent crime, high inflation, product shortages and alleged repression of opponents.
 
Thursday's most serious unrest was in the western Andean states of Tachira and Merida, which have been especially volatile since hardline opposition leaders called supporters onto the streets in early February demanding Maduro's departure.
 
In the city of San Cristobal, which some residents are describing as a “war zone”, many businesses remained shut as students and police faced off again. The government says it is taking “special measures” to restore order in Tachira.
 
“This is not a militarization,” Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said on state TV from San Cristobal.
 
“We are here to work for the great majority of people in Tachira. ... Before we have dialog, we must have order.”
 
Maduro says he will not let his rivals turn Tachira into “a Benghazi,” referring to the violence-wracked Libyan city.
 
Wednesday night saw one of the worst bouts of violence the capital Caracas has seen during nearly three weeks of unrest.
 
Around a square in the wealthier east of the city, security forces fired teargas and bullets, chasing youths who hurled Molotov cocktails and blocked roads with burning piles of trash.
 
“I declare myself in civil disobedience,” read one banner held up by demonstrators on a city road early on Thursday.
 
“Don't Give Up!”
 
Caracas was much calmer during the day, though a few hundred opposition demonstrators gathered again at dusk in the same square, Plaza Altamira. Some businesses stayed closed, in a further drag on the already ailing economy.
 
The government said a funeral parade for deceased folk singer Simon Diaz, a beloved figure who died on Wednesday aged 85, was held up due to “violent groups” blocking roads.
 
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, dressed in white and holding up a flower stem, is taken into custody by Bolivarian National Guards, in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 18, 2014.Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, dressed in white and holding up a flower stem, is taken into custody by Bolivarian National Guards, in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 18, 2014.
x
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, dressed in white and holding up a flower stem, is taken into custody by Bolivarian National Guards, in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 18, 2014.
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, dressed in white and holding up a flower stem, is taken into custody by Bolivarian National Guards, in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 18, 2014.
Tensions have escalated since opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, turned himself in to troops this week. He is being held in Caracas' Ramo Verde military jail on charges of fomenting the violence.
 
“Change depends on every one of us. Don't give up!” Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori, said on Twitter.
 
Local TV channels are providing almost no live coverage of the unrest, so Venezuelans are turning to social media to swap information and images, though falsified photos are circulating.
 
Both sides rolled out competing evidence of the latest violence on Thursday, with ruling Socialist Party governors showing photos and video of charred streets and torched vehicles, while the opposition posted footage of brutal behavior which they said was by national guard troops.
 
Maduro, elected last year to succeed socialist leader Hugo Chavez, says Lopez and “small fascist groups” are in league with the U.S. government and want a coup.
 
He has been sharply critical of international media coverage, and on Thursday he warned CNN EspaInol it risked being kicked out of the country if it didn't “rectify” its ways.
 
Speaking in Mexico, U.S. President Barack Obama criticized Maduro's government for arresting protesters and urged it to focus on addressing the “legitimate grievances” of its people.
 
“Gross Interference”
 
That brought a typically scathing response from Caracas.
 
Obama's comments were “a new and gross interference” in its internal affairs, Venezuela's government said in a statement.
 
“Independent governments and the people of the world want the U.S. government to explain why it funds, encourages and defends opposition leaders who promote violence in our country.”
 
Street protests were the backdrop to a short-lived coup against Chavez in 2002 before military loyalists and supporters helped bring him back. There is no evidence the military, which was the decisive factor in 2002, may turn on Maduro now.
 
Countries around the region are watching closely. Political allies such as Cuba, which receives Venezuelan oil on preferable terms, have denounced an opposition “coup attempt”, while other nations have called for dialog between the two sides.
 
Detractors call Lopez a dangerous hothead. He has frequently squabbled with fellow opposition leaders and was involved in the 2002 coup, even helping arrest a minister.
 
Though the majority of demonstrators have been peaceful, an increasingly prominent radical fringe has been attacking police, blocking roads and vandalizing buildings.
 
Though the Caracas protests began and are still strongest in middle-class neighborhoods, sporadic demonstrations have also spread to poorer areas of the city, residents say.
 
Rights groups say the police response has been excessive, and some detainees say they were tortured.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Vazquez Is Favorite to Win Uruguay Presidential Vote

Leftist ruling party candidate buoyed by widespread affection for country's outgoing leader, strong economic growth
More

Brazil's Rousseff Struggles to Limit Petrobras Scandal's Damage

President expects bribery scandal at state-run oil company to deteriorate in coming months, aides say, with arrests possible for some political allies
More

Mexico, Central America Hail Obama's Immigration Reform

Mexican leader calls US president's proposals 'most important measures taken in several decades'
More

Torturers of Chilean President's Father Sentenced to Jail

Judge sentences 2 retired colonels to prison for committing 'crime of torture resulting in the death' of Alberto Bachelet Martinez during early days of Pinochet dictatorship
More

NYC Immigrant Advocates Praise Obama Move, Vow to Continue Fight

Threatened refusal by Republican congressional leaders to cooperate will backfire politically, attorney insists
More

Obama's Immigration Action: What It All Means

Attorney Camille Mackler is director of legal initiatives at advocacy group New York Immigration Coalition, and she discusses specifics of the action
More