San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Bolivarian Revolution

Venezuela split by pro- and anti-Maduro protests

CARACAS, Venezuela – Supporters and opponents of Venezuela’s leftist government staged dueling rallies Saturday in Caracas and other cities in the latest public displays of discontent at soaring inflation and basic goods shortages.

About 3,000 opponents dressed in white and carrying red, blue and yellow Venezuelan flags gathered in an affluent area of the capital of the oil-rich but economically troubled nation.

They filled a plaza in the Las Mercedes neighborhood and spilled out into nearby streets, just days after demonstrations left three people dead.

The protesters, mostly students, have spearheaded nearly two weeks of marches against President Nicolás Maduro. Rampant crime, soaring inflation and basic goods shortages are their main grievances.

On Saturday they demanded the release of about 100 detained students and other opposition activists, and an end to police repression. The depth of the unrest on what is now the 12th day of street protests was underscored by Maduro’s decision to address a counter-rally.

Speaking before thousands of supporters gathered in downtown Caracas, the president accused conservative Colombian President Álvaro Uribe of “funding and directing” the “fascist movements” he blames for the protests.

Maduro’s government has also taken Colombian news channel NTN24 off the air, saying it was inciting anti-government violence.

Protests have taken place in different cities in Latin America and on Saturday, dozens of activists, many of them youths, rallied in front of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington.

They carried banners reading “SOS Venezuela,” “We say no to dictatorship” and “Venezuela is not alone.” Many wore clothing in the colors of the Venezuelan flag.

A handful of pro-government protesters held banners at the embassy gates that read “We are with the Bolivarian revolution.”

Crackdown after violence

Two anti-government protesters and a pro-Maduro demonstrator died in a rally Wednesday, in violence that raised alarm throughout Latin America and as far away as Europe. Some 60 people were also injured.

“Before, we would not go out on the street because of crime. Now, we go out to protest and they kill us,” said university student Isaac Castillo, 27.

“We young people have neither faith nor hope. There are no jobs and even if we get one, it is not enough to make a decent living.”

In downtown Caracas, government supporters wearing the bright red symbolizing the leftist movement of the late Hugo Chávez and Maduro, his handpicked successor, filled several plazas.

Some protesters danced or did aerobic exercises to the rhythmic beating of drums played by their fellow demonstrators.

And other demonstrators unfurled huge Venezuelan flags and pictures of South American liberation hero Simón Bolívar and of Chávez.

Thousands of anti-government students lie on the ground during a protest in front of the Venezuelan Judiciary building in Caracas on Feb. 15, 2014.

LEO Ramírez/AFP

Maduro says the protests against him signal the rumblings of a coup to depose him, vowing to use force to prevent unauthorized street gatherings.

The president has accused opposition leader Leopoldo López of being one of the main backers of the protests, and he is wanted for arrest.

“Turn yourself over, coward! The people want justice,” Maduro said.

The latest anti-government movement, launched by students with backing from some of the country’s fractured opposition groups, poses the biggest challenge to Maduro since 2013 elections, after Chávez died of cancer.

A nationwide security crackdown has followed the violence in a country where the economy has been battered by inflation of more than 50 percent.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Venezuelan government Friday to bring those responsible for the violence to justice. The European Union also expressed concern.

Seeking to quell the unrest, Maduro unveiled a 10-point plan to crack down on crime that includes disarming the population, increased police patrols and unspecified “clear rules for television.”

The protesters have demanded that Maduro step down, although opposition leaders have not endorsed the request.

Despite having the world’s largest proven reserves of crude oil, Venezuela has severe economic problems and a deep divide between rich and poor.

And with an institutionally socialist government dependent on oil revenues in a state-led system, the nation has been hurt by a shortage of hard currency, while dwindling supplies of consumer goods have frustrated even some government supporters.

The government, however, blames “bourgeois” local business interests for trying to profit from its largely low- and middle-income political base.

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Adam C

The US citizens have a strange view point. Most US Citizen have not traveled out of United States. The media in the United States show a view point of bad and never any good. Poor never matter in United States. Money and CIA hate any country that talks about helping the Poor.

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John B.

Say, folks… the fight in Venezuela is not for penies. The big capital has lost part of their big influence to make huge bussinesses with the State. Of course, oil is a big, huge bussiness. Obviously Maduro has made mistakes. But the oposition should not forget that Maduro was elected by the people. So they should wait for the next election to kick him out. That´s one of the rules of the “game”. Ain´t it?

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I think there are many people who are naive and reckless who use terms like “leftist” and left-wing blah blah blah. The big multinational oil companies want their oil back and return to the day where the country receives 2% of the proceeds. They have more money and therefore influence for articles like this to be continually published. The big oil interests are doing everything possible to wreck the economy and create instability. If you want to march for an issue, I understand it and embrace it, if you simply want to overthrow and elected government then you do not believe in the democratic process and should be treated accordingly.

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Winston, stop with all the conspiracy theories!! Venezuelans are marching and protesting because of pure conviction, because we are tired of a completely inept, currupt, idiotic and inneficient government which sadly we havr had to bear in the name of democracy for the past 10 years!! This has nothing to do with left vs right, it has to do with stopping widespread massive corruption and inneficiency.. Get your facts straight before giving such a dumb comment.

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I can honestly say that I am not completely informed on all the details of the Venezuelan struggles and protests going on right now. But I do have friends who are professionals, or work in government who tell me this is the “beginning of the end.” That “the students are very courageous for standing up to what they believe in.” This is the kind of conflict we see when people have had enough of their elected officials and want a change. People always have the form of government that they ultimately want to have and if they do not have it then they will get it changed either peacefully or through other means.

When my southern friends tell me, while working for the government, that the official death rate from crime was 37,800 last year, that if true, makes Venezuela one of the the most dangerous country in the entire world including the combat zones globally.

For me this is shocking. And my heart goes out to the families who have lost their members for whatever reason is given. In my opinion a small country with this level of violence has lost control of its citizenry and has dismissed the safety and security of its citizens. So to me that means changes have to be made, and the strong arm tactics of a government will only lead to its demise after there is a loss of lives that may be necessary to order to bring peace to all of the chaos.

My regrets are simple..I hate to see a member of the Americas that has to go through this type of violence to bring about a stable government where safety, security and peace which are so important for its citizens.

But I do believe the power of the people to bring about the form of government that suits them best and then to change that government as they need to as the society evolves…so citizens need to move away from emotions of the moment and toward an educated and understanding of the potential outcome of whatever government they choose to live with. We are never stuck with any choice we make…we can always make changes for the betterment if we are willing to accept the consequences of those changes, to do otherwise is pure ignorance!

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