Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduoro is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the fiction of being in charge of a functioning administration. A week of mounting frustration reached its peak last week when a crowd of hungry Venezuelans chased the unpopular leader through the streets of Margarita Island. The NYT has the story:
President Nicolás Maduro was chased at a routine political event by a crowd of angry protesters banging on pots and yelling that they were hungry, just days after thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to call for his ouster, local news media reported on Saturday.
In one video, Mr. Maduro tries to calm the pot-bangers by walking among them, only to be surrounded as the furious crowd yells obscenities.
Mr. Maduro’s office made no statement about the incident…
Last Friday’s incident comes on the heels of “The Takeover of Caracas”, a mass protest which opposition leaders say included over a million Venezuelans, the purpose of which was to support a referendum recall Maduro from office. Countrywide food shortages have caused tempers to flare as well.
Though violence at the protests was limited, the Maduro administration has stepped up its campaign of arresting opposition leaders and journalists. One such journalist was Braulio Jatar, a Chilean native, radio host, and vocal critic of Maduro, who was arrested and charged with money laundering shortly after the events in Magarita Island. Jatar’s family has voiced concern for his safety and expressed their belief that his arrest is simply another attempt on the part of Venezuelan officials to silence dissent:
“Proof of the [regime’s] dogmatic silencing of the media,” Hausmann wrote. “My uncle will now be added to the long list of Venezuela’s political prisoners. Being a journalist has cost him his freedom.”
These sentiments were echoed by Chilean Foreign Minister, Heraldo Muñoz, who commented on Jatar’s arrest saying that “he has a right to be protected by the state of Chile and we will take all the steps necessary on his behalf.”
With Maduro the laughing stock on Venezuelan social media, the opposition is taking the initiative. Six-hour protests are scheduled in several cities outside of Caracas for tomorrow, and opposition leaders are encouraging supporters in Caracas to quietly support the nationwide effort by stopping work for 10 minutes around lunchtime. Will Maduro be able to stop the protests’ momentum without resorting to violence? That’s the question on everyone’s mind going forward.