Police cracked down on protestors in the streets of Caracas and in towns across Venezuela on Wednesday, firing tear gas canisters into crowds of occasionally violent demonstrators. The protests aimed to build support for a recall vote that could oust President Nicholas Maduro, amidst the collapse of Venezuela’s economy. Reuters has more:
Protesters and National Guards squared off on a Caracas highway, where demonstrators chanted “freedom” and waved copies of the constitution.
Some covered their faces and tossed stones.
“They don’t let us march. They don’t let us eat. They don’t let us live peacefully. What else can we do? We have to fight however we can against this tyranny,” said Juan, declining to give his surname as he donned a bandana.
It was the second day in a row of large-scale protests. According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, government forces killed four people and arrested 1,200 in a raid involving tanks and helicopters on Tuesday. The operations were ostensibly meant to target organized crime, which Maduro and his allies claim gives financial and logistical support to the opposition. The raid was the first time ever that tanks were deployed in the so-called “peace zone” in western Caracas.
Last week, the opposition delivered 1.85 million signatures calling for a recall vote. If the signatures are verified (and it’s unclear if Maduro’s people or the opposition or some third party does the verifying), then another four million names will have to be collected to trigger a recall vote.
Meanwhile, Venezuela announced an extension of its extraordinary two-day work week over the weekend amidst water shortages and power outages across the country.
With Maduro in charge of the army and the opposition in control of the legislature and backed by popular opinion, the situation could get much worse. Given that Maduro seems unwilling to compromise and unable to right Venezuela’s sinking ship, this latest violence could well just be the beginning of something very ugly indeed.