Protests in Venezuela: Updates

 Protests in Venezuela have turned violent in the past week, presenting a challenge to President Nicolas Maduros’ administration. (Photo Courtesy of breitbart.com)

Just as hopeful reports are coming in that the Ukrainian government and Independence Square protestors have agreed to meet for “peace” talks, disturbing news is coming from a different quarter of the globe: namely, Venezuela, where protests over a stalled economy, rising crime rates, and limited freedom of expression have rocked President Nicolas Maduro’s 10-month rule. As the country’s largest demonstrations since Hugo Chavez’s presidency envelop Venezuela, media repression, police and military intimidation, and lethal attacks on protestors have escalated, with a total of five protestors killed throughout the country in the past week.

But with Ukraine and the Winter Olympics occupying the international media spotlight, Venezuela’s woes have received almost no airtime–a surprising observation considering the fact that Venezuela has been an international flashpoint for several decades. The Caracas Chronicles, an independent blog covering Venezuelan issues, expressed a despondent frustration over the lack of coverage Venezuela’s “implosion” has received, while The New York Times only recently began covering the protests via a (graphic) blog post on the killing of a former beauty queen turned dissident.

Due to the relative lack of coverage on an international scale, I’ll be investigating the news reports coming out of Venezuela over the next couple of days to track what’s going on in the now-tumultuous nation. Be sure to check in on this post as I provide relevant updates.

[Updated 2/22/2014, 4:44 PM]

A Venezuelan protester holds up a sign proclaiming, “And who has the weapons?” (Photo Courtesy of news.nationalpost.com)

The war of words over Venezuela’s protests has finally hit the international community. Early today, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro lashed out at U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for comments the Venezuelan head of state believed gave protesters a “green light” for violent acts. Maduro tweeted that Kerry had engaged in “arrogant” and “insolent” remarks, echoing a stance of indignation often associated with Hugo Chavez’s tone toward American interests.

Maduro has gone so far as to challenge President Obama to meet with his administration for negotiations–to what end is unclear.

Meanwhile, competing mass rallies have rocked the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, with opposition demonstrations largely calling for the prosecution of armed groups responsible for attacking protestors this past week. In an interesting twist of demographic support, Maduro’s call for a pro-government rally was answered by a crowd mostly comprised of women. The pro-government demonstrations focused on defeating “fascism” in the country, indicating the continued allure of left-leaning political doctrine even as political opinion appears to be increasingly split among bloc groups.

[Updated 3/1/14, 7:46 PM]

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua has assumed the role of government spokesman to outside nations during his country’s three week long civil strife. (Photo Courtesy of presstv.ir)

The past week has seen continued protests-turned-battles in Venezuela’s major metropolitan areas, notably in youthful districts of Caracas where diverse opposition groups and many students have taken to the streets. With 17 confirmed deaths in a three-week period, Venezuela’s protesting factions have vowed to boycott the country’s Carnival out of respect for the dead. For its part, the Venezuelan government announced it is investigating 27 counts of potential human rights violations, although it is unclear whether the process of investigation will make much headway in the nation’s current political and social climate.

Internationally, Venezuela has felt pressure from neighboring Latin American countries such as Panama, which recommended that Venezuela take its concerns to the Organizations of American States (OAS). Although responsive, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s administration has rebuffed Panama’s overtures in favor of discussions with the Union of South American Nations (Unasur). Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua justified Venezuela’s refusal to utilize the OAS forum by stating “How many coups has the OAS stopped in its existence? On the contrary, it has legitimised many.”

Earlier today it was announced that Mr. Jaua will meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday to discuss solutions to Venezuela’s internal strife.

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