Protests and Political Instability Continue in Venezuela


Venezuela is currently dealing with massive protests against the Maduro government. (The Photographer/Wikimedia)

Daniela Gomez

Venezuela was once heralded as the future of South America. The leading industrialized country in the 1970s is now in economic and political crisis. On March 30th, the Venezuelan Supreme Court all but stripped the National Assembly, the national legislative body of Venezuela, of its power and transferred it in part to President Nicolás Maduro. This move, a blatant play for dictatorship, sparked domestic and international outcry. The opposition to President Maduro’s left-wing government which had been struggling to attract traction among people mainly concerned with finding basic items such as food and toothpaste, immediately began to organize protests.  

Two days later, the Supreme Court reversed its decision, but the damage was already done. The opposition, led by former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, called marches during the week of April 10th, ending on Easter Sunday, and most recently, a mass protest in the streets of Caracas on Wednesday April 20th. Another galvanizing force for anti-Maduro protesters has been the government’s decision to forbid Henrique Capriles from seeking another presidential bid until 2032. Protests have been violent, with both protesters and the government police using force. The Venezuelan police, long acknowledged to be corrupt and inefficient, have been using tear gas on marchers, and even opened fire at some point. As of April 20th, at least nine protesters have been killed, including young students and adults. 

Protesters say they risk their safety to show the government they cannot take political prisoners indiscriminately or try to curtail their rights. The protesters are demanding that the government comply with several conditions to stop marching. The demands include holding general elections in 2017, releasing all political prisoners, including activist Leopoldo López, recalling the Supreme Court justices who were involved in taking away the National Assembly’s power, and finally creating a humanitarian channel for importing medication and aid to Venezuela to counteract the shortages.  

The government shows no inclination to comply with any of these requirements, and President Maduro has claimed the opposition has wrongly accused the government of violence against civilians. 

Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro has been an outspoken critic of the government in Venezuela and its treatment of civilians. When asked about the turmoil in the Latin American country, Almagro blamed the government, saying President Maduro’s hands are “dirty with blood” of protesters and innocent civilians who are being stripped of their rights, and even of basic living conditions. 

What comes next in Venezuela is uncertain, with protests showing no signs of abating and a government in no mood to negotiate. For the time being, more protests are expected, with a certain level of violence from both the police and the protesters. Pine Crest Junior Muguet Rodríguez, who is Venezuelan, believes “The only way things will get better in my home country is for people to keep protesting, and to not passively accept the government’s mistreatment.”  

It is a crucial time for the future of this country, and hopefully both sides can come to a compromise on these issues.

Sources: NPR, Newsweek, The Guardian, BBC, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Reuters

Photo Source: Wikimedia