Venezuela students have taken to the streets in increasingly tense protests which recently resulted in two protester’s deaths along with at least 23 injuries. Since the death of previous leader Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has been in a kind of political pressure cooker. Tensions have been rising within the oil-rich country, and the recent deaths and injuries surrounding the student protests is a testament to its precarious political situation.
In recent reports, during a student-led protest Wednesday, two demonstrators were shot and killed by unidentified assailants. In addition to the deaths, the government of Venezuela has indicated that at least 23 were injured.
Accurate reports however, concerning specific instigators and details regarding who is to blame for initiating each incident of violence, are difficult to ascertain. The government and anti-government factions are pulling no punches and both groups are blaming each other for the blood spilled in Wednesday’s student-led demonstrations. Official facts and figures regarding the scale of deaths, injuries, and damage in Venezuela come from the government. The same government however is being vilified for what the opposition views as mismanagement and lack of sufficient action to address the growing problems within the poor and middle-class segments of society.
According to Attorney General Louisa Ortega Diaz, Juan Montaya and Bassil DaCosta were shot dead during Wednesday’s rally. Montaya was reportedly a member of a pro-government group, while DaCosta is reported to be a student demonstrator. The mayor of Chacao also added to the body count by announcing to media that another anti-government protester was killed in an affluent area of Caracas, Venezuela.
The demonstrations are just the latest manifestation in what appears to be bubbling tensions in Venezuela ever since the passing of former President Hugo Chavez nearly one year ago. The latest spree of demonstrations were started by students cited a number of things such as violence, food shortages, and poor economic policies for their frustration with the Presidency of Nicolas Maduro. The demonstrations have escalated recently however and the news of deaths and injuries may be just preliminary tremors of further escalations.
One student activist, Junior Munoz, in speaking with the press made statements indicating that the tone of the demonstrations may be at risk of leaving the realm of “peaceful protests.” Munoz went on to speak about government-backed gangs which apparently terrorize the demonstrators and have reportedly grabbed protestors off of the street and turned them over to authorities.
Opposition leaders within Venezuela have sought to take advantage of the precarious position the Maduro government finds itself in. With a laundry list of recent coups, demonstrations, and riots to study, the government may likely shun a harsh crackdown for fear that it may encourage wider demonstrations in the future. With this likely to be a consideration of the Venezuela leadership, opposition leaders have boldly thrown in their support for the demonstrators. In fact, Henrique Capriles, who ran against Maduro in the previous elections, personally took to the streets loudly announcing his support for the student protesters.
Venezuela is an OPEC member nation and sits on top of one of the largest reserves of oil in the world. This however appears to have brought the beleaguered nation more pain than pleasure in recent times.
Maduro is essentially calling the demonstrations an attempt to incite a coup, and has stated to his supporters that it is a “Nazi fascist faction” inside the opposition that is aiming to bring about widespread violence and chaos in Venezuela. For the time being, many things remain unclear, however in the latest reports it appears that student-led protests suffer two dead and at least 23 injured as Venezuela strives to find its way.
By Daniel Worku