What is Happening in Venezuela?

Photo Credits: qn.quotidiano.net
Photo Credits: qn.quotidiano.net

The protests in Venezuela against the government of Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chávez’s successor, began on February 2 with the protest of a Cuban baseball team on Margarita Island. In the following days, college students began demanding for greater security. The protests began in the state of Táchira, but then extended to the rest of the country.

After ten days of tension, by February 12, three people – two protesters and a member of a collective pro-government – had been killed by blows of a firearm in the clashes that erupted at the end of an opposition rally calling for the resignation of Maduro.

The reasons that lie under these events are the high crime rate, lack of basic products (such as milk and toilet paper), frequent power cuts and inflation that has exceeded 50% in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan opposition is divided. The candidate who had challenged Maduro in the presidential election of 2013, Henrique Capriles, refused to participate in the protests on February 12, claiming that the demonstrations are not the right way to bring down the government, thus giving his role on the scene to another opposition leader, Leopoldo López, the former mayor of Chacao, which has emerged as the leading alternative.

Maduro has condemned the events that have plummeted the country into a state of chaos and has spoken of an attempted coup orchestrated by the nazi-fascists.

On February 13, President Maduro issued an order for the arrest of Leopoldo López, accused of inciting violence and damage to public property, murder and terrorism for having led the demonstrations of February 12 against the government. The latter two charges were eventually dropped, but the charges of incitement to violence remain. López is likely to face ten years in prison if convicted.

On February 17, three U.S. diplomats were expelled from the country after being accused of conspiring against the government.

After a few days, Lopez turned himself in to the authorities during a demonstration against Maduro. On the same day there was a demonstration in the capital of the country, Caracas, but this time it was a demonstration for supporters of the government.

The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has expressed concern over the arrest of hundreds of students after the demonstration on February 12.

Photo Credits: www.lindipendenza.com
Photo Credits: http://www.lindipendenza.com

On February 21, the Minister of Interior, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, announced that they would be sending three thousand soldiers to the state of Táchira, on the border with Colombia and where the protests began.

The protests continue to this day and two other people have been killed. The death toll has risen to at least 28 people and over 230 wounded. The associations for the defense of human rights have denounced torture and sexual abuses against civilians. The main source of worry for NGOs and protesters are the security forces and the irregular Chavist groups. In the meantime, Maduro is rejecting while Maduro rejects all charges.

On March 13, the USAN (Union of South American Nations) decided to create a committee of Ministers of Foreign Affairs to promote dialogue between the government and all political and social actors involved in the conflict, with the aim of arriving at an agreement which contributes to social peace.

“What started as peaceful demonstrations has turned into violence and chaos,” said the Venezuelan prosecutor Luisa Ortega Dia, adding that, among the victims, there are also a prosecutor and three members of the National Guard.

The process of reconciliation launched by Maduro towards the opposition and the United States does not seem to have been successful: anti-chavist students and executives confirm the new protests while Washington has responded to the expulsion of the three consular officials in Caracas. Maduro has renewed his invitation in asking everyone to participate in a “Conference for Peace and Life”, with the aim to sign “an agreement to renounce to violence as a method of political action”, but the initiative has not been accepted by the leaders of the opposition.

Erika Sciarra.

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