“Kidnapped In Their Own Country” – Venezuelan Protests To Intensify This Week

This past week, Venezuelan protests became increasingly violent. The right-wing opposition leaders called protestors to the street this Wednesday, April 19, and they are pledging that this will be the largest rally yet. They are demanding an election, the ousting of current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his judicial allies, and the release of political prisoners. After hearing this, Maduro has called for counter-protests the same day, urging his supporters to fight against the foreign-backed opposition and ‘imperialist aggression.’ Maduro has also deployed the Venezuelan armed forces to the streets, where they will stay for the duration of the protests.

The Venezuelan armed forces confirmed their loyalty to current President Maduro this Monday. When speaking to the Latin American Herald Tribune, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez stated that the protests are “acts of violence,” which threaten the country’s “peace and security” and they must act accordingly in this “crucial situation.” Padrino also reported that the violent groups of protestors are being financed from abroad by “radical right organizations” and are “undermining the… state and obstructing the government.”

The right-wing opposition party and their army of protestors are claiming that President Maduro has been cultivating a dictatorship since the 2015 election. The results of this election gave a majority parliament to the opposition, but Maduro still held political power in the Supreme Court and electoral authority. On March 29, the Venezuelan Supreme Court dissolved the parliament, which took power away from the opposition legislature and consolidated power in the other two branches of government, which is controlled by Maduro and the United Socialist Party. Although the decision was reversed three days later, protests had already erupted. On April 7th, the opposition became angrier with Maduro’s decision to ban main opposition leader Henrique Caprilles from doing political work for 15 years.

With that said, it is evident that these protests go beyond partisanship, political power, and imperial aggression. The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has been mounting since 2014, with food and medicine shortages becoming increasingly severe. A mismanagement of the economy has led to sky rocketing food prices and the destruction of public hospitals, which has led those in rural and poor municipalities to riot, despite traditionally being supporters of the United Socialist Party.

As well, there have been six causalities since protests swelled in March. Reports have included a 13 year old boy and two college age students. There have also been countless injuries and arrests to other protestors and journalists. The police have used every strategy under the sun to silence protestors including rubber bullets, explosions, and tear-gas bombs. One woman, Ana Gabriela García, has been protesting in one of the most violent cities Caracas, Venezuela. “I am not a politician, I do not have any actual power … But I can protest and raise my voice and I’ve been doing this for 16 years,” she told US news source WUFT. “We are in dictatorship, we are not free, there is no freedom of expression.. we are basically kidnapped inside our own country.”