A protest in Venezuela against its government quickly turned into chaos on Wednesday which left dozens injured and three people dead. The chaos erupted after anti-government protesters clashed with the Venezuelan law enforcement.
According to Attorney General Luisa Ortega, 23 people were injured and vehicles belonging to both government and private citizens were torched by the protesters. Among the injured, the three reported deaths were of two student protesters and one community activist from a militant pro-government neighborhood in the west area of Caracus.
The marches held by anti-government protesters were countered by Pro-government protestors who took to the streets of the capital as well. The latter’s march was a part of the Youth Day commemoration that honors the students’ participation in the 19th century Independence battle against colonial rule.
In response to the protest, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro released a statement stating that the protest was merely a coup against his government.
“I want to alert the world we are facing a developing coup plan against the democracy and the government that I preside by the responsibility of a small group of irresponsible leaders, violent, full of hatred and personal ambitions,” said President Maduro, casting the blame on the protest’s outcome on the protesters.
However, Henrique Capriles Governor of the Miranda state and one of the reported opposition leaders took to Twitter to disparage the President’s statement.
“We condemn violence! Violence will never be the way! We know the vast majority rejects and condemns it,” said Capriles, utilizing the social app to settle any claims the blame of the violence seen yesterday was caused by fellow protesters.
Today in a Venezuelan court an arrest warrant has been issued against Leopoldo Lopez, also described as another opposition leader. Lopez’s charges includes murder and has been linked to terrorism because yesterday’s outcome.
For the past two weeks Lopez has helped organized demonstrations around the country to denounce President Maduro. Since Maduro has entered office, his opponents have claimed he has the inability to control the country’s inflation, crime, and product shortages. So the demonstrations held by angered civilians and students are in a bid to remove Maduro from office. Protesters have stated they will continue until President Maduro is pushed out of office.
According to President Maduro, Lopez is using violence in his protests as a way to stage a coup similar to one staged 12 years ago. The coup in-which Maduro is referencing is the one that had briefly overthrew the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
However, these current protests show little indication that the protests could topple President Maduro.
A backer of President Maduro agrees with the Venezuelan President on the matter that Lopez is using violence in the protests, however alludes to it being a strategic ploy.
Leader of the country’s ruling Socialist Party and Mayor of Caracas, Jorge Rodriguez stated that “without a doubt, the violence was created by small groups that were coordinated, exalted and financed by Leopoldo Lopez.”
Despite allegations being made by political officials in Venezuela, Lopez is defending himself against the claims he is initiating violence and blames armed government supporters for firing upon peaceful protesters.
“The government is playing the violence card, and not for the first time. They’re blaming me without any proof…I have a clear conscience because we called for peace,” said Lopez, in an interview with news organization Reuters.
On the matter to if the protests will end, Lopez strongly stated, “we won’t retreat and we can’t retreat because this is about our future, about our children, about millions of people.”
It has been a year since Chavez’s death and it has been a decade since political protests have become the norm in Venezuela. But the protest held yesterday does not stand in comparison to others.
Protests in the past have been described as “usually fizzle out within days as residents grow tired of blocked streets and the smell of burning tires,” but the recent protest stands out and could be a longer demonstration since it displayed a deep rift between its people and government.
Today, Venezuela‘s capital, Caracus, was calm due to many residents opting to stay home. However, despite yesterday’s chaos a few small demonstrations were held. One demonstration included an estimated 200 students who blocked a road leading to their university.
“We want solutions to problems, not endless confrontation and violence,” said Manuel Armas, a 19-year-old student who partook in a peaceful protest waving a banner which read: “No More Blood.”
The protest seen in Venezuela conjures up the ongoing protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. The Egyptian protests began back in 2011 with the goal of removing the 30-year-regime of then President Hosni Mubarak. The removal of Mubarak was significant as it promised the returning of a government to its people. And while successful, protests have continued to oust the current President Mohamed Morsi who has made matters worse.
The plights of the Egyptian People can be viewed in the 2014 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature film called, The Square. But what the protests in both Egypt and Venezuela spotlights is not the violence of the people but the violence being directed at the people who want a government that is for them and not against them.
While the government blames the protesters for the injured and the deaths, and protesters blame the government in return the blame game should not be the focus of the result of yesterday’s protest. The purpose of a protest is to display a course of action to show the people’s disapproval or objection to something. While some may be violent, some are generally peaceful until two opposing viewpoints clash and the immediate response to do bodily harm.
That is what happened in Venezuela. And to prevent such a re-occurrence it appears neither side is anywhere close to sitting down at the table to discuss how things can change. Protests and the rift between the people and its government will continue if both sides continue to play the blame game.