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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

Program gives street kids not only food and safety, but a chance for a better life without crossing US border
More

US Senate Kills Immigration Bill, House to Vote Friday

Earlier Thursday, Republican-led chamber abandoned plans to vote on $659 million bill that addresses influx of more than 57,000 unaccompanied Central American children
More

Argentina Defaults Again on Debt

Negotiators failed late Wednesday to reach an agreement with New York investment companies to avert the default
More

Cameroon’s Coffee Farmers Blame Government for Production Drops

Cameroon's growers, dealers and experts mourn declines in a nation that once ranked 12th in the world.
More

Argentina, US Creditors Fail to Reach Deal; Default Imminent

This will mark the second time in 13 years Argentina has defaulted on its debt
More

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Officials grapple with ways to deal with problem, provide shelter for thousands of minors among illegal border crossers
More