Venezuela experiences mass protests in response to social, economic issues

By Steven Viera, News Editor

Starting this month, mass protests have broken out across the South American nation of Venezuela. Originally a response to the country’s economic and social woes, the protests dramatically intensified after government forces opened fire and killed several protesters, some of them students.

Protesters took the streets earlier this month in response to high inflation, rising crime rates, and shortages of basic goods, such as foodstuffs. According to the article, “Venezuela: What’s the crisis about?” on CNN.com, protesters blame Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, who came to power in a special election following the death of former president Hugo Chavez, for many of the problems.

“This is a rich country, and we can’t even buy a kilo of flour, a rich country, but we live in misery,” said Marta Rivas, a protestor, in the nydailynews.com article “Thousands gather in Venezuela to protest, support embattled government.”

Following almost two weeks of peaceful protesting, violence broke out on Feb. 12 as government forces killed three protesters, according to CNN. Since then, protestors have erected makeshift barricades around their demonstrations and thrown rocks at security forces, with police and National Guardsmen responding with volleys of tear gas according to nydailynews.com, which pointed out that over 100 people have been injured.

The government responded to the protests with rallies of their own in support of President Maduro who, according to CNN, accused the United States of plotting to destabilize Venezuela. Additionally, the government arrested Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader, on murder and terrorism charges.

Venezuelan politicians have also been active — for example, Henrique Capriles, a presidential candidate, spoke at a rally alongside Lilian Tintori, Lopez’s wife. Capriles, who was a political prisoner of the state in 2002 — at the same facility where Lopez is being held — called for Lopez’s release and for protestors to continue pressuring the government.

“If [Maduro] can’t [solve Venezuela’s problems], then it’s time to go,” Capriles said according to

nydailynews.com.

John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, weighed in on the situation.

“I am watching with increasing concern the situation in Venezuela,” he said in the article “Kerry says Venezuela Crackdown is ‘Unacceptable’” on NYTimes.com. “The government’s use of force and judicial intimidation against citizens and political figures, who are exercising a legitimate right to protest, is unacceptable and will only increase the likelihood of

violence.”

Despite pressures from rival politicians and the international community, Maduro remained resolute.

“This elected president, the son of Chavez, is going to keep protecting the people,” he said, according to nydailynews.com. “Nobody is going to blackmail me.”

 

Sophomore Steven Viera is the News Editor. His email is sviera@fandm.edu.

print