Venezuela Protests Turn Violent

Venezuela Protests turn violent

In recent weeks, many of the major cities in Venezuela have been hit with protests that have rapidly turned violent. The figures are increasing but to-date nine deaths have been recorded and at least 100 have been injured with 137 arrests.

The violent Venezuela protests actually started on Feb 2, when students in San Cristobal began peaceful demonstrations against the steadily increasing crime-rate. They were outraged that the brazen rape attempt of a young female student had occurred on campus grounds, and deplored the decline in security that has fostered under the last and current President.

What appears to have gotten them even more incensed, was the response received from the police, who detained and abused several of the protesters. Over the last two weeks, the outrage has spread from San Cristobal to other cities and has turned violent.

Despite having some of the world’s largest oil reserves,the Venezuelan economy continues to deteriorate under the leaderships of former President Hugo Chavez, and Maduro. In 2013, inflation exceeded 56 percent. Crime rates continue to be high with the number of homicides increasing by over 400 percent and the shelves of many of the retailers remain bare.

In what residents and the opposition see as a surprise move, President Nicholas Maduro has called on US President Barack Obama for help, as the Protests turn increasingly violent.

A simple solution to the Venezuela protests is not readily apparent, as there are several versions of whom or what may really be responsible for the violence. The opposition blames pro-government factions for attacking the demonstrators, while Maduro claims that the protests are part of an attempted coup that was started by the United States and Alvro Uribe, who was once President of Columbia. The leader of the opposition Leopoldo Lopez has since been imprisoned.

What appears to be without logic, is that Maduro appealed to the US a few hours after revoking the credentials of seven reporters from CNN, which he claimed was responsible for inciting civil war in the country. The protests in Venezuela are perhaps the biggest threat that Maduro has faced as President, and both sides continue to blame each other as the violence continues.

The US has not responded to the call for talks however US Secretary of State John Kerry has denounced the use of force describing it as being unacceptable. There is very little indication that the unrest will dissipate anytime soon and more protests are expected throughout the country. The citizens are finding it increasingly difficult to continue life as normal without public transportation and troops being present everywhere.

San Cristobal, where the Venezuela protests began, is an unlikely region for a crisis. It is a rural city, that is 660 kilometers away from the capital city of Caracas and the population is largely based on students who maintain economic and cultural ties with conservative neighbors. It has remained an opposition stronghold for a long time; it was where the then current leader,  Hugo Chavez, was defeated by opposition leader Henrique Capriles, in the  2012 presidential elections. The residents of San Cristobal voted overwhelmingly to elect Capriles instead of Maduro, who was to seen as the successor to Chavez.

Venezuela cannot wait for elections to solve the crises, and it is anybody’s guess as to what can happen next. There is also no indication of a response from the US to offer assistance to help curb the unrest, while paratroopers are sent to remote areas in the hope of quelling the disturbances. US President Barack Obama has said that in order to curb the Venezuela protests that has become more violent, the government should address the grievances expressed by the citizens of the country.

By Dale Davidson

The Toronto Star
The Telegraph

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