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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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 Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Jailed American Aims to Leave Cuba 'Dead or Alive'

In Havana after visiting Alan Gross, attorney Scott Gilbert say his client has lost some vision in his right eye, walks with a limp due to hip problems, has lost a tooth and is 50 kilograms lighter than at the time of his arrest
More

Oldest Living Pro Ballplayer Dead at 102

Conrado Marrero's grandson confirmed the death, which came just two days before the centenarian's 103rd birthday
More

Summit to Protect Oceans Opens

Oceans called fundamental to life
More

Actress Lupita Nyong'o is People's 'Most Beautiful' Woman

Oscar winner, 31, lauded for role in '12 Years A Slave' says she 'never dreamed' she would be praised for her looks and land on cover of weekly magazine
More

Violent Protests Erupt Near Rio's Tourist Attractions

The rioting was sparked after word spread that the body of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, a dancer on Brazil's Globo television network, had been discovered
More

Russia Expels Canadian Diplomat

Reports say first secretary's expulsion in Moscow is in retaliation for deportation of Russian military attache from Russian Embassy in Ottawa
More