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The Pain of Chavismo
New Protests Put Venezuela on Edge

Two week-old student protests got more serious on Wednesday when opposition leaders joined a massive march through Caracas. Scores of people have been detained by police, three people were killed, a number of police vehicles burned, and some government offices were vandalized during the protests. The government of Nicolás Maduro, who won an election last year after the death of Hugo Chavez, accused the opposition of inciting the violence and ordered the arrest of at least one prominent opposition leader.

The protests appear to have been launched by students upset with the government’s inability to provide basic services and commodities like milk, sugar, and toilet paper, as well as high inflation and poor security. At an earlier rally in the Andean city of Merida, armed thugs on motorcycles opened fire on a crowd of protesting youths, injuring five.

“We students are sick and tired of living in fear because of violent crime. We are sick of having to leave the country because when we graduate, there is nothing here,” a 20-year old student told AFP.

“The government is playing the violence card, and not for the first time,” said Leondro Lopez, an opposition leader. “They’re blaming me without any proof…. I’m innocent. I have a clear conscience because we called for peace.” The government is seeking to arrest Lopez on charges of murder and terrorism.

Maduro assumed Chavez’s mantle after last year’s elections and has done his level best to keep the country exactly as it was. These protests are the biggest challenge he has faced since assuming office, and he has moved quickly to squash them. “There will be no coup d’etat in Venezuela; you can rest assured. Democracy will continue, and the revolution will continue,” he declared on national television.

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  • qet

    Venezuela is well along on the road to North Korea. I wouldn’t have thought it possible.

    • Andrew Allison

      And Argentina is sprinting to catch up.

  • Gene

    The wording of your second paragraph may have (unintentionally?) highlighted the basic intellectual dividing line between the competing ideologies in Venezuela. If students truly are protesting “the government’s inability to provide basic services and commodities,” the Chavistas have won. In other words, if the students actually think it’s the government’s job to supply toilet paper, the country has gone too far around the bend.

    While I can’t be sure what is in the minds of those in the streets, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that your comment about providing basic services and commodities was just carelessly written.

    • Andrew Allison

      Hmmm, it appears to be our government’s duty to provide cell phones, medical care, etc. We may be in the same boat.

  • MontyBurnz

    I am extremely disappointed with the scant, superficial coverage WRM and his blog have provided to this issue in our backyard. I was expecting insightful analysis but this reads like an AP report or a blog from CNN. This situation merits an intellectually profound analysis not this fluff piece.

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