Protesters, police and National Guard soldiers have clashed in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas in days of protests against the socialist government and President Nicholas Maduro. Police responded to the organized protests by closing off subway stations and public areas where demonstrations were planned to be held. The protests and police actions have resulted in road blocks and traffic jams. Protesters burned and threw rubbish at police, while police retaliated with pepper spray and tear gas.
Shots were fired during the protests, leaving one 19-year-old man dead on Thursday, according to El Nacional. The 19-year-old man’s death occurred during a clash with National Guard Troops and protesters as the troops tried to clear a road block. President Maduro stated during a television broadcast that 30 protesters were arrested, as reported by Reuters. Al Jazeera reported that according to the rights group Penal Forum, the number of people detained reaches almost 100.
The protests come amidst a crisis that has seen Venezuela experience massive inflation, food shortages, and shortages of other necessities such as medicine. The protests and demonstrations were prompted by the Supreme Court ruling that stripped the National Assembly of its powers late last month. While the ruling, which was criticized and condemned internationally, was quickly retracted, the National Assembly remains without power.
Protesters and Maduro’s opposition are calling the Supreme Court action part of an attempted internal coup by Maduro. They say it’s a step towards a dictatorship headed by Maduro. The Opposition Alliance called for protests and demonstrations to continue during the week. The demonstrations on Thursday were called a “traffic jam against the coup”, as reported by Al Jazeera. President Maduro’s supporters also organized demonstrations, which resulted in closed subway stations and traffic jams.
On Saturday, recently banned opposition leader Henrique Capriles spoke in front of thousands who turned up to the demonstrations, saying “Nobody can disqualify the Venezuelan people” as reported by Al Jazeera. The banning of Capriles from running for office for the next 15 years, stopping him from running against Maduro in the next election, is representative for many of the way Maduro has been cracking down on and attempting to silence his opposition in the light of his unpopularity, and symbolic of what the anti-Maduro protesters are demonstrating for. The protests in Caracas are loudly decrying their government and the crisis they feel Maduro’s government is responsible for. As for the government, Al Jazeera has reported that they have blamed a US-backed business elite and a capitalist conspiracy for the recent economic crisis in Venezuela.