South America Divided Over Venezuela Protests and A Student Leader Emerges
South America is being divided over the unrest in Venezuela. In the oil rich country, where deadly protests are being held against President Nicolas Maduro, dividing lines and loyalties are being displayed daily. Countries like Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador have made it clear that they are standing by Venezuela regardless of the outcome. Other countries such as Colombia, Chile and Peru have not.
Political and financial interests have helped to primarily develop the country’s positions. Argentina, run by a leftist government, has been imposing price controls, high-inflation and ignoring crime to such a high degree that many in South America are calling the two countries, “brothers in crisis.” Ecuador is led by a president which some see as the ideological heir to the late Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez. Ecuador also joins with Venezuela in having enormous wealth from oil and these economics bring the countries closer.
In South America, counties not supporting Maduro aren’t always right-wing opponents of Venezuela. Chile and Colombia are both conservative and Peru is seen as leaning to the left as is Brazil and Uruguay. The hesitancy to show support for Maduro is probably due to the growing unhappiness over Venezuela’s ongoing shortage of goods, inability to end poverty and the draconian methods used to deal with the opposition.
Regardless where a particular country stands in the ongoing struggle within Venezuela, the line in the sand has been drawn between Venezuela’s closest allies and those who want to keep Maduro at arm’s length.
Bolivia has publicly expressed support for Venezuela as well as the “Bolivian Revolution” now occurring in Caracas. Ecuador is also in the Venezuelan tent. Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa said, “We know what’s happening. The violence is coming from the same right-wing fascism that wants … Quito.” Argentina’s foreign ministry issued a press release saying that Argentina “…reiterates its strong support…” for Venezuela and Maduro.
While no country has condemned the Venezuelan’s government’s handling of the protesters, comments from some South American leaders are starting to get on Maduro’s nerves. He responded angrily to both Santos, president of Colombia, and Pinera, president of Chile, telling them “…enough with your meddling in our affairs.”
Student Leader Rises to the Top
Bearded and looking more like a “cartonero,” Juan Requesens has become a student leader of the protests rocking Venezuela in the country’s most violent unrest in ten years. With a talent for public speaking, Requesens has appeal to many across South America because he is not one of the polished and well-connected opposition politicians that Venezuelans already know about.
Requesens has attracted the attention of Maduro who has invited him numerous times to join him in “peace” talks. Requesens refuses saying that Maduro must free jailed protesters and meet other conditions first. Venezuela’s interior minister has been encouraging Requesens to head to the western state of Tachira where the protests first broke out and protesters are still blocking deliveries of food. Established opposition leaders have begun following Requesens’ lead and are also refusing to meet with Maduro until the president makes some concessions.
South American by birth, Requesens has told reporters that he prefers marching instead of barricades and is trying to turn the rebellion into a broader social movement. A key audience that Requesens hopes to attract are the former Chavez supporters who have lost confidence in Maduro.
By Jerry Nelson