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Bolivarian Revolution

Police disperse another rally in Venezuela as former beauty queen becomes latest casualty

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan police fired tear gas and buckshot to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters late Wednesday, and the death toll from two weeks of unrest rose to four.

As U.S. President Barack Obama urged the government to release detainees, hospital officials said a 21-year-old former beauty queen in the northern city of Valencia who was shot in the head Tuesday died of her wounds.

Unrest stemming from anti-government fervor was reported in several cities in the oil-rich but economically troubled nation.

In a rich neighborhood in the east of Caracas, police used tear gas and buckshot to disperse protesters who had blocked a road by burning garbage and debris. Several injuries were reported.

The demo was in support of a prominent young opposition leader, Leopoldo López, who turned himself in to the authorities on Tuesday after days of eluding police seeking to execute an arrest warrant.

He was making a court appearance late Wednesday but no details had emerged. He is charged with instigating street demo violence last week that left three people dead.

Obama, speaking during a visit to Mexico for a trade summit, urged Venezuela to release detained protesters and address the “legitimate grievances” of its people.

Demonstrators — students and opposition parties — are angry over rampant street crime, runaway inflation, corruption and bleak job prospects in the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves. Their main target is President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded the late Hugo Chávez last year.

“Along with the Organization of American States, we call on the Venezuelan government to release protesters it has detained and engage in real dialogue,” Obama told reporters after a North American leaders summit in the Mexican city of Toluca.

Venezuela’s relations with Washington, long strained under stalwart leftist Chávez, have remained sour and distrustful under Maduro, who has stuck closely to his predecessor’s policies.

A motorcyclist carries Venezuelan model Genensis Carmona, injured during an anti-government protest in Valencia on Feb. 18, 2014. The 21-year-old model died on Feb. 19, 2014 after suffering a gunshot wound to the head .

Mauricio Centeno/AFP

‘Political confrontation’

About 100 supporters of jailed opposition leader López rallied Wednesday outside a Caracas court where he had been due to hear charges blaming him for a deadly episode of violence.

Heavy security surrounded the Palace of Justice, blocking streets leading to the building, where the Harvard-educated economist had been scheduled to appear after spending the night in jail.

But his party said in a Twitter message that the hearing had been moved to a military jail. López’s defense attorney Juan Carlos Gutiérrez said a court illegally ordered the change claiming it would protect López’s life.

López’s dramatic surrender to National Guard troops at a protest rally Tuesday came after two weeks of protests against Maduro.

After three people were killed in street clashes on Feb. 12, Maduro ordered López’s arrest, blaming him for the violence.

Protesters light fires during an anti-government demonstration in Caracas, on Feb. 19, 2014.

Leo Ramírez/AFP

Political scientist Ángel Oropeza said the government was walking a tightrope.

“They may hold him for a few days. If they free him right away, it would be a sign of weakness,” said Oropeza, a political science professor at Simón Bolívar University in Caracas.

“But if they hold on to him for a long time, it could fuel the protests even more and the government would come under more international pressure,” he said.

On Tuesday, López told thousands of his supporters, all clad in white, that he hoped his arrest would highlight the “unjust justice” in Venezuela. He drew an explosion of cheers from the crowds.

The tensions generated by the protests have spilled into the international arena.

On Sunday, Maduro ordered the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats, accusing them of meeting student leaders under the guise of offering them visas. Washington denies the allegations.

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Niklas Zenius J.

Funny how Tico Times fails to mention that there have been presented no prove what so ever that the government is behind the killings? And that among the killed are a member of the police and a pro-government activist. On the other hand there are massive amounts of prof that the extreme right-wing protesters are carrying firearms and Molotov-cocktails at the demonstrations and are attacking both police, pro-government activist, innocent bystanders and public buildings. And fail to mention that no peaceful opposition demonstrations have been blocked or harassed in any way.

Also, you fail to mention the 500.000 strong pro-government demonstration, much larger than the opposition demonstrations. Not to mention, that there is no mentioning in the article that Lopez was one of the leaders of the military coup in 2002, a coup that killed many peaceful protesters afterwards until they fled from power facing mass protests.

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NZ- I agree with your statement. The CIA has been secretly funded by right wing billionaire capitalists since its inception. They perpetuate the right wing agenda at the international stage. Propoganda is an important instrument, and friends like Rupert Murdoch ensure the protection of the ultra exuberant business class. This is why Fox News was born. They have conspired with worldwide partners like the PLN in Costa Rica for decades, just as they have with their GOP partners at home. It’s time people understand the truth. This organization is responsible for inundating inequality in all industrialized nations and their 3rd world partners. One must wonder how much control Obama really has over them?….and yes, I just copied and pasted my same statement from last week.

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The US media is almost unanimously propagating the falsehoods that the government of President Nicolas Maduro is using violence against the opposition, that the US government is not trying to promote a coup and that Maduro is destroying the economy by continuing the transition to socialism begun by Hugo Chavez.

Regarding a coup the media must be blind if it believes that elements of the US are not backing the opposition to the hilt in its efforts to overthrow Maduro. This is the administration that declares it can use drones to kill anyone it judges to be a terrorist without any due process. And as Edward Snowden’s documents reveal, the US believes it has the right to spy on and intervene in the affairs of countries around the world, including allies.

The economic situation in Venezuela recalls that of Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity government that I witnessed from 1970 to 1973. Richard Nixon ordered the CIA “to make the economy scream.” The destabilization of the economy was a critical factor leading to the military coup.

The opposition in Venezuela is also hell-bent on destroying the economy, using the the capitalist market place to cause speculation, inflation, shortages of commodities and capitalist flight.

What is occurring in Venezuela is a critical battle in the struggle for national sovereignty and twenty-first century socialism. At the fifth annual gathering of the World Social Forum on January 30, 2005 Hugo Chavez declared: “It is necessary to transcend capitalism…through socialism, true socialism with equality and justice.” As part of the roaring crowd of 15,000 at the Gigantinho stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil, I heard Chavez go on to say: “We have to re-invent socialism. It can’t be the kind of socialism that we saw in the Soviet Union, but it will emerge as we develop new systems that are built on cooperation, not competition.” This is an historic call to confront capitalist-dominated globalization, the mammoth transnational corporations that promote hyper-speculation, the concentration of wealth, perpetual conflict for markets, and the destruction of the environment.

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