Feb 18, 2014

What's Going On in Venezuela?

There's plenty of information in both English and Spanish regarding the recent protests and current demonstration by opposition to Nicolas Maduro, the highly contested successor to Hugo Chavez,  who has been ruling Venezuela for a little under a year.  On Feb 12th three deaths and 25 injuries were attributed to clashes with govenment national guardsmen and police in Caracas.  According to internet videos, the three deceased students received bullet wounds to the head.   The protests are being spearheaded by Leopoldo Lopez, a former mayor of a section of Caracas and an allegedly US educated politician.  Today, another demonstration which was emphasized to be peaceful, received massive public support.  Following the demonstration Lopez, who has been sought out by police and was in hiding for four days, turned himself over to authorities stating he committed no crime and had nothing to fear.  He was immediately arrested by the Venezuelan national guard and taken to an undisclosed location expected to be the headquarters of the SEBIN, Venezuela's national intelligence agency.  Hopefully he will be handled in a manner that respects human rights.  Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's current president, has stated Lopez will be persecuted to the full extent of the law.  President Maduro has also accused the US of interference in the politics of Venezuela and called for the removal of three US consular officials working in the universities there whose official functions have to do with the issuance of US visas.   They are reported to be supporting the student opposition, and allegedly have been seen meeting with its leaders. It will be interesting to see how things play out, and what eventually happens to Mr. Lopez.  His arrest was very public and very well documented, so hopefully international attention will remain focused upon Venezuela's treatment of  free speech rights and governmental opposition.

The Venezuelan national television channel,  NVN 24 in Caracas, has been taken off the air, as well as has Twitter services, so Venezuelan's are hampered from communicating with each other and with the outside world.

The government supporters and President Maduro are stating that the opposition leaders and supporters are "fascist" and will not be tolerated.  Apparently there was another demonstration today as well, in support of the government.  It was lead by "chavistas" and their participants, reportedly, received much more favorable treatment from the national guard and the police.

There are several student videos circulating on the internet which declare that the student and opposition demonstrations were peaceful.  Other videos, however, showed students throwing rocks at police in riot gear, showed cars being shaken and vandalized with people inside them, and the governor's home was reportedly attacked by persons throwing rocks and other objects into it.   There are videos of the police and national guard kicking and brutalizing protesters who aren't fighting back, as well.

Venezuela's economy, with a 56% inflation rate, and scarcity of everyday household staples have contributed to the social unrest and opposition to the current government's economic policies.  

Photos from this post were taken from photos circulated on facebook.  I don't have sources to credit.  The one below was just posted on facebook by a supporter of the Panameñista Party.  It makes an impactful political statement.  (In 1989, the Cambio Democratico party didn't exist, and the PRD party was credited with supporting Manuel Noriega.)