Student Protests Turn Violent in Venezuela
By Nicole Halseth, News Editor
According to the BBC, “At least three people were shot dead as violence erupted during anti-government protests in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, on Wednesday.” This follows a series of protests against the policies of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
After around 10,000 people had already left what was a largely peaceful protest, two people were shot dead by men on motorbikes who opened fire on what was left of the crowd, and a third person died in later protests. Many of these protestors are students, and they marched to the federal prosecutor’s office on 12 February “to demand the release of 13 protesters who they say were illegally detained in previous marches.”
Two of the victims who have been identified as the ones shot after the rally include Bassil da Costa, 24, and Juan Montoya. It is believed that da Costa was an anti-government protester, while Montoya was at the rally as a pro-government supporter.
President Maduro blames the incidents on a “neo-fascist upsurge,” and claims that while he wishes for peace, he will not allow the violence to go unpunished.
In a TV and radio broadcast, Maduro stated “There will be no coup d’etat in Venezuela, you can be absolutely sure of that, let the whole world know that.” However, there is still strong oppositional support, and politicians are calling for more protests despite the recent violent upswing.
One of these oppositional politicians is Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, who had this to say on the matter: “Just as we condemn the violent incidents, we say to all Venezuelan families that we have to remain ready to continue fighting, calmly but with determination.” He continued by saying “You have to know, Mr. Maduro, that whatever you do, what started today will not stop until change is achieved in peace and with democracy for all Venezuelans.”
Protesters are calling for the resignation of the President amongst growing discontent. Among the strongest supporters for this anti-government movement include students from western states of Tachira and Merida. They claim that the lack of security and the failing economy need to be addressed.
According to the BBC, “The country has the highest inflation rate in the region at 56.2% in 2013,” in addition to having one of the highest murder rates in the world. Staple shortages, such as with supplies of milk and toilet paper, have also been incredibly common in recent times. Many blame the current government for this state of affairs, though opinions are incredibly divided throughout the country. The government, meanwhile, blames the current troubles on “saboteurs” and “profit-hungry corrupt businessmen.”
For more pictures of the protests, and more information on the current situation in Venezuela, check out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-26166094.
These protests are being driven by students, and as fellow students in Canada, we can only hope that these protests remain as peaceful as possible, to avoid future deadly violence.