Venezuela Enters Second Week of Protests


Venezuela has long been an ally of Argentina. Often throughout the tumultuous history of both countries, they had to lean and rely on each other for support, both moral and financial. Argentine President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, continued the relationship with late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez which was started by her late husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

Because of the close relationship between the two countries, people in both Venezuela and Argentina have been watching news around-the-clock as the situation in Caracas continues to deteriorate into violence, bloodshed and unrest. Argentines have reason to be concerned that the violence may spread.

Many Argentines on the streets of Buenos Aires feel that it’s not a matter of if the violence will show up in the Argentine capital, but when.

Venezuela Enters Second Week of Protests Amidst Spreading Fears in Argentina1Standing against gunfire, tear gas and water cannons, protesters in Venezuela took to the streets again today to demand less crime, an end to scare products and freedom of speech. The government echoes back the demands to the protesters, blaming the unrest and economic problems on the United States.

Tuesday, the weeks old confrontation, took an unexpected twist when opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, surrendered to federal police. At a rally later, as many pro-government supporters turned out, President Nicolas Maduro claimed credit for helping to negotiate Lopez’s surrender.

Lopez was taken to a prison just outside Caracas.

Describing his opposition as “right-wing fascists,” Maduro claimed his enemies have tried to overthrow his democratically elected administration and assassinate him. Maduro compared the unrest to bacteria plaguing the South American country.

The rallies in Venezuela protest against rampant crime and food shortages. The protests have result end violent confrontations between protesters and federal police. Three antigovernment demonstrators and one government supporter have been killed.

Lopez, who faces murder charges, denies his guilt. Before being loaded into a white military car, he addressed a crowd of almost 100 thousand. Finishing his speech, he walked up to the police and surrendered.

The tension leading up to Tuesday’s march was felt throughout the city. Maduro’s Venezuela Enters Second Week of Protests administration said the opposition march failed to get a permit and was unauthorized. Regardless, anti-government demonstrators lined up and began the march to city center.

Ruling party lawmaker, Julio Rafael Chavez called the Venezuelans “peace-loving” and said they were worried about the left leaning actions of a portion of the Venezuelan anti-government movement. Chavez went on to claim that the opposition is being directed as part of a larger plan by the United States.

Monday, Maduro gave three US diplomats two days to get out of the country. Accused of conspiring to bring down the administration, Maduro shouted “Yankee go home” from the stage which drew cheers from the crowd.

Many of Maduro’s claims were also used by his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Chavez regularly spoke of US intervention and assassination plots against him. The latest round of protests are the largest that have been seen either during Chavez’s time or Maduro’s.

Lopez’s party has accused the government of the one responsible for violence during the protests. On Monday, the party’s headquarters were raided by government troops firing tear gas and tearing security cameras from their mounts. Efforts to reach Venezuelan officials for comment were unsuccessful.

At Tuesday’s rally after Lopez was arrested, Maduro said the socialist revolution he leads is democratic and peaceful. Saying he wants peace, dialogue and understanding, Maduro spoke for two hours in the hot Caracas sun.

Henrique Capriles, another opposition leader, said the administration’s actions show a different picture. Blaming Maduro for fomenting a climate of unrest and confrontation, Capriles stopped short of calling for massive protests. Capriles feels that large demonstrations play into the hands of Maduro’s administration.

Many of the issues, crime, inflation and corruption, which have triggered violent protests in Venezuela, are the same that has Argentines concerned.

By Jerry Nelson

US State Department

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