Venezuela was rocked today with violent rioting after a peaceful protest turned deadly. Students gathered to commemorate Youth Day with a march that sparked new tensions and later turned to chaos, killing two and injuring several others. The melee involved supporters and opponents of President Nicolas Maduro who claims that his opponents are in fact attempting to mount a coup to unseat him, similar to what happened to former president Hugo Chavez in 2002. President Maduro believes that opposing factions wish to pit Venezuelans against one another in efforts aimed at causing unrest that might lead to his removal.
Maduro says that he will do all he can to restore and maintain peace, and that those who violate the law would have no impunity. He also stated that he would see to the arrest of anyone found protesting without proper authoritative permission. Much of the rioting was captured on videotape and this would be used in an investigation being launched by Attorney General, Luisa Ortega. Protesting was reported in several other locations throughout the country. In the past week, in the Andean cities of Merida and San Cristobal, students have been demonstrating calling for their right to assemble and protest.
It has been reported that five people were shot in Merida during today’s upheaval. Several police vehicles were burned and many protesters were seen carrying signs, many of which called for no more poverty. With two killed and new tensions sparking, President Maduro is being blamed for the increasing violence in Venezuela and for its suffering economy. There are widespread food and medicine shortages and spare parts are difficult to come by, largely due to foreign exchange controls. There is a fear of impending recession among many of the countries citizens.
Opposition party leader Leopoldo Lopez spoke with reporters and claims that students were protesting peacefully and that it was in fact government supporters that infiltrated the march and incited the violence that erupted, in an attempt to place blame on the students. In contrast, President Maduro claims that his opponents are to blame for the economic unrest and that it is a plan designed to bring about his downfall.
Human rights activist, Tamara Suju, said that men on motorbikes, known as the “colectivos,” were responsible for the gunshots that injured five people. The injured ranged in age from 15 to 34. In the western state of Tachira, government officials say that it was policemen who were injured there. The initial Youth Day march was peaceful but became deadly after government supporters and the opposition clashed, causing damage to buildings, civilian vehicles and injury to one another. Many Venezuelans chose to stay home to avoid the riots and violence.
President Maduro is adamant that the government opposition who he claims is behind the violence will not be successful in bringing down his government. He is hoping that the measures he takes to ensure peace across Venezuela will be enough to staunch the growing unrest among that has killed two today and perhaps prevent the sparking of any new tensions. He has his work cut out for him as most of the country is unstable and in need of a major overhaul to many of its imperative systems. One thing is for certain, the people of Venezuela are weary of the discord and ready for positive change.
By Mai Nowlin